Indian soldiers keep watch at Bumla pass at the India-China border. India plans to develop a mountain corps to boost its presence in the area. (Agence France-Presse)
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NEW DELHI — Shortly after new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visited here, India has decided to proceed with a plan to add more than 40,000 troops in the form of a mountain corps to bolster its strength on the Chinese border.
The Ministry of Defence prepared the plan two years ago and has awaited consideration by the Ministry of Finance, which has given approval. Now, it must be cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, an MoD source said.
About US $12 billion will be spent to raise the additional troops, and the new corps is expected to be functioning within 10 years, an Army official said. Additional weapons and equipment will be purchased.
“The elite mountain corps will be able to fill this gap in preparedness, thereby adding to the conventional stability in the medium to long term, though in the short term it may be perceived as destabilizing,” defense analyst Rahul Bhonsle said.
Last month, China’s Li visited New Delhi, his first foreign visit after taking office, amid reports that Chinese troops had intruded into Indian territory. The issue was discussed during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, though the point was passed off as “an incident,” an Indian External Affairs Ministry source said.
“The raising of additional troops to be deployed along the border with China is bound to raise tempers in Beijing,” the source said.
Analysts here, however, are unanimous that India and China can ill afford to go to war in the immediate future as both are building themselves economically.
“Given the track record of handling their military and diplomatic showdown ... China and India are not likely to go to war anytime soon,” said Swaran Singh, professor for diplomacy and disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “It’s not a strong possibility even in their medium-term trajectories. It is not in their interest and the interest of the international community, which will ensure it does not occur.
“The strongest incentive against war is their historic chance to achieve their peaceful rise followed by greater recognition and participation in world decision-making bodies.”
But Bhonsle said New Delhi must manage the issue carefully.
“India will certainly have to make extensive efforts to manage concerns that may be raised by China; [otherwise], the move will prove counterproductive and will only lead to increases in force levels on both the sides,” he said. “Confidence-building measures on the boundary and greater transparency in raising the force, including the fact that it is being positioned in the interior, should assuage Beijing.”
The Army official welcomed the new, because the service is operating at only 60 percent of its required capability level.
As the troops will be deployed in hilly terrain, new purchases will include light tanks, specialized vehicles, light artillery guns and advanced infantry equipment.
The Army also will buyammunition and small arms, hand-held thermal imagers, UAVs, aerostat-based radar, portable missiles, air-defense artillery and lightweight radar.
The service will establish network-centric warfare systems for the elite troops, including advanced C4ISR equipment, and information warfare systems, Army sources said.
On the composition of the weapons required, Bhonsle said, “the weapons and equipment will include the whole gamut from reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition, firepower, tactical and logistics mobility including helicopters, communications and so on. Five years for forming up and almost eight to 10 years for full-spectrum effectiveness may be reasonable to assume.”
The 4,057-kilometer Line of Actual Control is India’s current border with China. The eastern sector, bordering the states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, is the most contentious, where China claims 90,000 square kilometers of territory that India occupies.