Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday was briefed on the operational readiness along the line of actual control (LAC) with China, in the backdrop of the Army kicking off the raising of a new mountain strike corps to get "some offensive punch" against the much larger People's Liberation Army.
The classified briefing held in the military operations directorate, with defence minister AK Antony, Army chief General Bikram Singh and others in attendance, came exactly a week after the new XVII Mountain Strike Corps was raised at its temporary headquarters at Ranchi.
The new corps, to be headed by Lt General Raymond Joseph Noronha on promotion, will be raised over the next seven years with around 90,000 soldiers. The corps, to be eventually headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal, will cost Rs 64,700 crore, out of which around Rs 39,000 crore has being earmarked for capital expenditure, said sources.
While the Cabinet committee on security approved the new corps last July, the Army also wants the long-pending infrastructure and "capability development plan" along the "northern borders" with China to be speeded up. The price tag for this, in turn, is pegged at Rs 26,155 crore.
While the PM, in his last meeting with top military brass, said India must strive to develop "comprehensive national power" to tackle the challenges posed by the shift in the global strategic focus towards Asia-Pacific, he had also warned the defence budget might have to be trimmed due to the economic slowdown.
The Army, on its part, says the raising of two new infantry divisions (1,260 officers and 35,000 soldiers) at Lekhapani and Missamari (Assam) in 2009-2010 added muscle to the "dissuasive posture" against China. The XVII Corps, in turn, will ramp it up to the "deterrence" level. In other words, it will get some "rapid reaction force" capability to launch a counter-offensive into Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the event of any Chinese attack.
Apart from "integral units" and two Para-Special Forces battalions, the new corps will have two high-altitude infantry divisions (initially being raised at Panagarh and Pathankot), two independent infantry brigades and two armoured brigades spread across Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
The 1.13-million strong Army already has three "strike" corps — Mathura (I Corps), Ambala ( II Corps) and Bhopal (XXI Corps) — among its 13 such formations but they are largely geared towards the land borders with Pakistan.
India only belatedly realized the "greater challenge" posed by China, which has at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in TAR. 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, as earlier reported by TOI. - Times of india