Quelling fears about its raising, the Army’s mountain strike corps — which is aimed at countering threats from China — concluded its war-gaming exercise last month focusing on various scenarios emerging from the recent changes in Chinese military organisation and strategy. While details of the war-gaming exercise of under-raising 17 Corps are classified, its conduct, sources said, showed that the Army’s newest corps was moving towards operationalisation.
Concerns about the new corps were raised after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced last May that lack of resources was likely to slow down the raising of the corps.
Meanwhile, sources in Army confirmed that the raising of the corps was proceeding as per the original schedule. The mountain strike corps is currently headquartered at Ranchi in Jharkhand. “We have not received any political direction to slow down the raising. We are supposed to raise 250 headquarters and units for this corps, out of which 75 have already been raised. Raising of another 75 is in progress, and the balance 100 will also be raised as per plan by 2021,” a senior Army official said.
The 17 Corps, which will be India’s fourth strike corps but first for the mountains, will consist of two infantry divisions, two independent infantry brigades and two independent armoured brigades, along with all the supporting elements.
The decision to raise 17 Corps, meant specifically for the nearly 3,500 km long China border from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh, was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security in July 2013. It had sanctioned a proposed strength of 80,000 soldiers costing Rs 64,000 crore, to be spent over eight years. But additional resources were never allocated in the budget for the raising.
Besides the raising of units and formations, the government had also approved the plan for infrastructure improvement on the China border: railways, roads, logistics bases, advanced landing grounds for aircraft, communication network and connectivity to forward posts. There has been a delay in executing these projects due to various reasons, ranging from environmental clearances to land acquisition to local labour problems.
This delay, sources said, has been repeatedly flagged by senior military officers in the Army commanders and combined commanders’ conferences. They have argued that unless a proper logistics supply chain is built and proper infrastructure facilities are in place, the mountain strike corps will not be fully effective. Acquisition of artillery guns and missiles has also been identified by the Army for the new corps.