The China-focused mountain corps will include three mountain divisions (20,000 soldiers each), complete with tactical airlift capability, armed with necessary armoured regiments and artillery components, and deployment of C-130J Hercules aircraft, reveals R S Chauhan.
General Bikram Singh, Chief of the Army Staff, is slated to brief the Cabinet Committee on Security on the need to raise a new mountain strike corps, primarily aimed at countering a potential threat from China on India's northern borders.
Highly placed sources in the defence ministry told Rediff.com that the Chiefs of Staff Committee -- essentially a forum of all the three service chiefs -- has reconsidered the 2011 proposal to raise a mountain strike corps and come up with a comprehensive plan that will be presented to the CCS, the country's highest decision-making body on security matters, later this month.
The proposal, first mooted in 2010 and given in-principle clearance by the government in 2011, involved recruiting over 80,000 new soldiers and nearly 500 officers to man the strike corps -- an offensive formation -- to counter China's growing capabilities across the border in Tibet.
It was estimated that the new corps would cost about Rs 65,000 crore (Rs 650 billion). India has three strike corps, all geared towards offensive operations against Pakistan. They are I (located at Mathura), II (Ambala) and XXI (Bhopal).
Former army chief General V K Singh was a forceful advocate of forming the mountain strike corps, proposed to be based at Panagarh in West Bengal. The government, however, had second thoughts especially because raising an offensive formation for mountains involved massive expenditure. The finance ministry initially raised objections to such huge investment.
The Prime Minister's Office too felt that accretion of such a huge force may raise Beijing's hackles at a time when India-China relations are on an even keel.
The third factor was the apparent disconnect between the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force in asking for resources.
The PMO sent back the proposal to the defence ministry and asked for a comprehensive joint proposal. The Chiefs of Staff Committee asked Headquarter Integrated Defence Staff to come up with a revised draft for the mountain strike corps which is now ready.
The new proposal now given final shape, includes raising of three more mountain divisions (20,000 soldiers each), complete with tactical airlift capability and armed with necessary armoured regiments and artillery components.
The IAF has also projected its requirement in this plan. It includes deployment of the C-130J Hercules aircraft meant for Special Operations like para-dropping.
General Bikram Singh will personally outline the proposal to the CCS later this month so that India's defences along the China border get a further boost. He is also expected to brief the CCS on the slippages in building infrastructure in the difficult mountain terrain of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim in the Eastern Command.
India's plans to build border infrastructure including roads, air strips and living quarters for additional troop deployment, has not kept pace with the need.
Since 2009 India has raised two mountain divisions, one each deployed under the Tezpur-based 4 Corps and the Dimapur-based 3 Corps.
If the CCS clears the proposal to raise the mountain strike corps, it will take anywhere between three and four years to recruit, train and deploy troops in a manner that acts a strong deterrent against any Chinese adventurism.