TUESDAY, 04 SEPTEMBER 2012 00:27
RAHUL DATTA.|.NEW DELHI
Driven by fear of Chinese aggression, the Army’s proposed plan to raise a mountain strike corps has run into rough weather with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) saying that such a move may send wrong signals to Beijing and escalate tension in the region.
The PMO felt that China in the last few last years has not increased its troop strength along the 4,500 km long Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC) and any accretions by India will prove counter-productive as both the countries are holding regular dialogue to resolve the vexed boundary dispute.
The rethink came about even as the Government in 2009 had approved raising of two mountain divisions (a division has more than 10,000 men) exclusively for mountain warfare in Arunachal Pradesh. One division is already raised and work is on for the second one. But the strike corps
sanctioned by the Centre last year, which was to amalgamate these two divisions with additional manpower, has been effectively put in cold storage, sources said here on Sunday.
The PMO recent directive to the Defence Ministry came after the proposal for the strike corps was scrutinised by the Finance Ministry. The PMO is always kept in the loop on proposals of such magnitude since the raising of the corps will cost `60,000 crore and have bearing on international relations.
Incidentally, Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie is in India and will hold talks with Defence Minister AK Antony on the entire gamut of military relations here on Tuesday.
Justifying the need for strike corps, sources said China has improved its military infrastructure all along the LAC and Tibet backed by excellent sensors and radars and therefore, did not need to have troops on the ground to guard its territory. Enjoying this advantage over India, China has not increased its troop strength in the last few years.
However, India lacks infrastructure including roads, rail and airfields and has to maintain its presence in the Ladakh region and Arunachal Pradesh throughout the year. While China has built more than a 10,000 km long rail
network and airports in Tibet region and can rush troops and maintain logistical support in case of an eventuality, India is way behind and troops have to be physically present there.
The Finance Ministry has also asked the Defence Ministry to have a re-look at the proposed strike corps which will have more than 60,000 troops and entail massive expenditure. The strike corps was to have its own dedicated mountain artillery units, troops trained in mountain warfare, helicopters for reconnaissance and the IAF backing the corps during actual combat.
The main objective of the corps is to launch offensive in Tibet if China captured any Indian territory, sources said, adding Indian Army did not want to be forced into a Kargil-type adventure where it had to reclaim Indian territory at great cost. Moreover, the corps would have been a powerful deterrent and a strategic tool in the overall management of war and force China to have second thoughts before launching an offensive.
Having sent back the proposal, the Government asked the three service chiefs to have a joint strategy to counter China instead of one service like the Army seeking a strike corps, sources said.
The chiefs of Staff Committee comprising three service chiefs were asked to redraw a comprehensive plan to meet the growing military might of China and have more synergy between the three Services for this purpose, sources said.