India’s Planned Mountain Strike Corps to Cost $13 Billion

Indian soldiers at the Siachen base camp. In 2012 the Indian finance ministry killed an Indian Army plan to  raise a mountain strike corps, citing the huge financial commitment involved.
Indian soldiers at the Siachen base camp. In 2012 the Indian finance ministry killed an Indian Army plan to raise a mountain strike corps, citing the huge financial commitment involved.

The Indian cabinet committee on security (CCS) gave its approval for raising a mountain strike corps along the China border. This would be India’s fourth strike corps, meant chiefly for offensive operations into enemy land, as well as India’s first dedicated corps for offensive mountain warfare. The corps will take around six years to be raised along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and new formations would be raised from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.

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[ismember] The corps headquarters will be headquartered at Pangarh in West Bengal. The strike corps will have two Mountain Infantry divisions including around 18 infantry battalions along with independent brigades of artillery, air defence and elements of combat engineers and mechanised forces. The new corps may also be equipped with the new Apache attack helicopters the Indian government plans to acquire from the USA. India already ordered 22 such helicopters for its Air Force; however, more Apaches are likely to be ordered by the Army.

The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were engaged in a tussle for control over the attack helicopter fleet in which the government decided in favour of the former. The two forces then contested for the 22 Apache attack choppers being procured from the US by the IAF but the Defence Ministry decided that they would remain with the IAF and the future assets would be given to the Army. The government has given permission to the Army for pursuing a separate Foreign Military Sales-route procurement on the issue, they said.

Apart from standard and mountain-warfare specific infantry equipment, and new lightweight assault weapons, new hardware procurement is likely to include lightweight artillery and mortars, (possibly capable of aerial delivery by helicopters), heavy lift helicopters, particularly those capable of high altitude operations.  Multi-mission and assault helicopters are also likely to be equipped with guided missiles, providing the battalions effective firepower and support.

The mountainous terrain will also require suitable communications infrastructure, likely to relying on extensive use of satellite communications. Hence, the need for mobile and dismounted SATCOM terminals could be in high priority.[/ismember]

The main mission of the 45,000-50,000-strong corps will be to beef up the military presence along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), thus deterring further military adventurism by China. While raising a fourth mountain strike corps was on the table for about 10 years, the recent incursion by Chinese troops into the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector in eastern Ladakh in April 2013 may have acted as ‘a trigger-pulse’ for CCS decision. In 1962 a border dispute along the Himalayan region has evolved into a war between China and India. During this month-long conflict, coinciding with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Chinese launched simultaneous offensives over the 3,000 km Himalayan border. The Indian army, unprepared for mountain warfare, was defeated in this campaign.

The new corps will be equipped and trained to launch offensive action beyond the LAC, into the Tibet Autonomous Region, in case of a Chinese offensive. By authorizing the military to raise the new formation the government is committed on additional expenditure of Rs.64,000 crore (US$13.6 billion) – roughly half the defence budget for 2013-14 — over a seven-year period, official sources said. However, in its decision, the CCS was not clear when funding would be made available for implementing the decision. ‘It is a long-awaited, strategically apt decision which will go a long way in contributing to India’s combat potential in diverse operations of war to deter our potential adversaries in the mountainous region along our vast Himalayan borders,’ Lt. Gen. Kamal Davar (retd), the first head of the Defence Intelligence Agency chief told the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

“The Chinese and Indian governments have signed several agreements on safeguarding peace and tranquillity in the border areas and on taking trust-building measures in the field of military”, Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in written response to a query from Press Trust of India (PTI) on China’s reaction to the Indian move. The approval for the formation of the new corps comes as the two countries held advanced negotiations on the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) which figured prominently in Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit here earlier this month. It was also discussed during National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon’s visit on June 28 when he held the 16th round of talks to resolve the border issue with his counterpart Yang Jiechi. Indian officials here earlier refuted perception that the BDCA which was proposed by China was aimed at containing the development of infrastructure on the Indian side of the border or freezing the troop levels.