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November 30, 2012

IAF in mountain strike corps to counter Chinese might

Keeping China’s growing military prowess in mind, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will now be part of India’s proposed mountain strike corps that will be based in Uttarakhand and the North-East.
This move came about after the Government turned down the Army’s Rs 60,000-crore proposal seven months back on the grounds that it was too Army-specific and that the three Services should jointly put up the proposal.
The new proposal sent to the Defence Ministry by Chairman Chief of Staff Committee Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne 10 days back projects requirements for combat helicopters, radars, anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns and electronic surveillance equipment.
This is besides the Army’s projection of recruiting nearly 40,000 to 60,000 jawans and officers trained in mountain warfare apart from acquisition of artillery guns, howitzers and long and short range infantry weapons including rifles.
Incidentally, the earlier proposal was drafted by the Army alone after the Government gave an approval in principle more than a year back. However, the Finance Ministry later sent back the proposal to the Defence Ministry and asked it to come up with a joint proposal by the three Services, sources said here on Wednesday.
Explaining the rationale behind the objection on the Army’s proposal, sources said given the magnitude of the project with huge expenditure involved, the Government wanted to avoid a scenario where the IAF and the Navy also put forward their requirements at a later stage. Against this backdrop, the Government asked the Chairman Chief of Staff Committee to draw a joint proposal about the strategy to meet the challenge of China’s growing military prowess and listing their requirements in a synergised manner for the strike corps, officials said.
The new proposal reinforces the need for setting up the corps at the earliest with air elements including combat helicopters to provide cover to advancing troops from enemy and destroy its fortified positions and gun locations.  Moreover, the new plan also gives details of the deployment of frontline IAF fighter jets in forward bases in the North-East and Uttarakhand and requirements to upgrade these bases to aid the proposed corps, sources said.
The Army has already started raising the second mountain division (one division has 10,000 men). The first division was raised a year back for Arunachal Pradesh and these two divisions will form part of the strike corps. The raising of a strike corps is the brainchild of former Army Chief VK Singh. The objective was to launch a counter-offensive in Tibet if China carries out a Kargil-type  adventure.
Moreover, rapid modernisation of China’s armed forces and its vastly superior infrastructure in Tibet and other areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) opposite Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh regions was another reason for this strike corps as China has carried out offensive exercises in Tibet Autonomous Region in the past few years.
Besides these factors, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) also expressed reservations about the corps saying such a move may send wrong signals to Beijing and escalate tension in the region.
The PMO felt that China in the last few years has not increased its troop strength along the LAC and any accretions by India will prove counter-productive as both the countries are holding regular dialogue to resolve the vexed boundary dispute. However, the defence establishment maintained that China has improved its military infrastructure 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.
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 the 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.

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