The ball has been set rolling for the Army to raise a new mountain “strike” corps with two “independent” infantry brigades and two “independent” armoured brigades, totalling over 80,000 soldiers, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
While the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on July 17 had cleared the new mountain corps and brigades the defence ministry has now issued the “government sanction letter” to the Army for the new raising to be undertaken.
The new corps — the 1.13-million strong Indian Army already has three “strike” corps among the 13 such formations but they are largely geared towards Pakistan – will eventually have its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal.
The new formation to be called 17 Corps, along with its infrastructure, will come up over seven years at a cost of around Rs 90,000 crore. “Officers and soldiers are already being earmarked for posting to the new corps,” said an official.
With additional armoured regiments and infantry units based in Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand, the new mountain corps will for the first time give India the capability to also launch a counter-offensive into Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the event of a Chinese attack.
As part of the overall plan for “major force accretion” along the “northern borders” with China, two new infantry divisions (35,000 soldiers and 1,260 officers), have already been raised atLekhapani and Missamari in Assam in 2009-10. Their operational tasking is the defence ofArunachal Pradesh, which China often claims as its territory.
The new corps, with two specialized high-altitude divisions for “rapid reaction force capability in mountains”, will add to all this. This will give India, which for long has focused on the land borders with Pakistan, some offensive teeth against China as well.
This is critical because China has “aggressively” strengthened its military capabilities in TAR, with at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads. This allows China to move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there.