Proposal to raise strike corps for China border in pipeline

Even as the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is seized of the Army’s plan to raise an exclusive strike corps for the China border in the eastern sector, the Army is evaluating the recent ground-air combat military drill by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the Tibetan plateau.

The PLA has carried out four exercises in Tibet since March.

“We constantly monitor and analyse such exercises; there is no change in the pattern and no new areas are being opened by the Chinese military,’’ sources in the Army said.

On infrastructure-building by China along the border, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told Parliament last week that the government was regularly monitoring all developments in “our neighbourhood,’’ which have a bearing on national security. “Required measures have been initiated through development of infrastructure and operational capabilities to achieve desired levels of defence preparedness to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of India,’’ he said in written reply.

Keen to get at least the Air Force also on board, the CCS is learnt to have asked the armed forces to further work out finer details and come up with a compact proposal for raising a strike corps. Discussions on planning a strike corps as well as two additional divisions for defence of Arunachal Pradesh began about six years ago and continued at various levels before the proposal was sent to the CCS in the form of a note a year ago, government sources familiar with the development on this front said.

Initially, the Army proposed raising three divisions — comprising nearly 45,000 troops — at an estimated cost of about Rs. 7,000 crore. It was proposed to have the corps headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal.

The proposed strike corps will draw support from IAF fighters operating from renovated bases in the northeast. Sukhoi-30s have been posted at bases in Tezpur and Chhabua. In addition, Jorhat, Bagdogra, Hashimara and Mohanbari bases are also being upgraded.

“The PLA has held at least 21 exercises in the Tibet region over the past one-and-half years. These have been designed for specific scenarios. These exercises also convey to India that they are gearing preparations in high altitude conditions. China wants to convey that it is testing and strengthening its conventional deterrents and enhancing military capability in hostile territory,’’ said Srikanth Kondapalli, Chairman of the Centre for East Asian Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“India is also conveying a message about its capabilities through Agni V test or deployment of SU-30s,’’ he said.

As perceptions of the Line of Actual Control differed on both sides, transgressions often took place, he noted.

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