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June 1, 2013

Govt set to clear 40,000-strong force along China border

The Cabinet committee on security (CCS) could soon grant approval to the Army's proposal to raise a mountain strike corps along the China border.

The CCS approval would be given after the ministry of defence (MoD) gives its final clarification to certain questions raised by the finance ministry, sources said. The MoD is not expecting any further objections from the finance ministry over the ambitious proposal to raise a dedicated offensive capability in the north-east border with China.

The strike corps is expected to cost Rs 62,000 crore spread over the entire 12th Plan (2012-17).

The Army has proposed a mountain strike corps, two independent infantry brigades and two independent armoured brigades to plug its operational gaps along the entire line of actual control (LAC) with China, as well as to acquire offensive capabilities.

India started the catch-up game with the Chinese military and infrastructural capabilities only in the past decade, and is now furiously working to find some kind of parity with Beijing. The mountain strike corps would be a significant step towards the catching up, a senior official said.

The raising of the new formations will together cost over Rs 81,000 crore during the 12th Plan period. However, some parts of the entire build-up, especially the independent brigades, will spill over into the 13th Plan period.

The proposed mountain strike corps, with over 40,000 soldiers and headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal, will for the first time give India the capability to also launch offensive action into Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the event of a Chinese attack. The corps will have two high-altitude divisions for rapid reaction.

India has already raised two new infantry divisions at Lekhapani and Missamari in Assam in 2009-10. They are operationally tasked to defend Arunachal Pradesh.

India is also beefing up its missile and fighter capabilities along the China border in its desperate bid to catch up with a burgeoning China's military capabilities and developed infrastructure up to the border.

The proposal for raising India's first mountain strike corps has been hanging fire over the last few years. The finance ministry has in the past returned the file to the MoD objecting to the huge financial commitments. A few days ago, the finance ministry has sought further few clarifications. "It is just a matter of formalities," one source said.

Even as India plays catch up, China has built aggressive military and infrastructure capabilities. It has at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads along the Indian border. This would allow China to move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there.
  
Times of India

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