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October 30, 2010

The Army's Silver Bullet: But Can It Be Fired?

(By India Today )The army's silver bullet for dealing with China's looming superiority: a new mountain strike corps-32,000 troops equipped with ultra-light howitzers, attack and heavy lift helicopters and an armoured brigade of light tanks. This unique strike formation which will attack over the Himalayas, marks a change in strategy, from defensive to offensive-deterrence. It is the 1.1-million strong Indian army's largest expansion in over 30 years.

That's the easy part. Current acquisition rates mean it will take at least five years to fully equip this equipment-intensive formation. From boots and rifles to artillery, helicopters and night-fighting devices tied in red tape and bureaucratic delays, the army has bought nothing in over a decade. The IAF is down to 32 squadrons from a sanctioned strength of 39.5 combat squadrons and needs at least 55 combat squadrons to repel a simultaneous ChiPak offensive. A similar slowdown affects key road projects along India's border with China along where these divisions will be deployed. The MoD's 11th Plan sounds an alarm: 'develop infrastructure in the Eastern theatre to meet high-level threat from China beyond 2010.' In 2003, India changed its perverse version of the scorched Earth policy-no roads or infrastructure for the North East-lest these be used by Chinese troops to roll in-unveiling strategic road building projects. Seven years later, only nine of these 73 strategic roads have been completed, severely compromising the army's Cold Start strategy for the mountains.

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