WITH AN eye on the massive restructuring of the Chinese military, the Indian army is moving to raise a second infantry division for its mountain strike corps on the northern border, sources told The Indian Express.
The raising of the new, 72 Infantry Division will start at Pathankot within a few months, they said. “Preliminary action to set the ball rolling for the second division has already started. The army was told to complete the raising of the mountain strike corps by financial year 2017-18. It will be completed on schedule. Complete operationalisation will take some more time,” said a senior army official.
The 15,000-strong division is expected be fully operational in two-three years, said sources, adding that the organisational structure and manpower were in place, and equipment and stores would follow.
The other infantry division for the mountain strike corps — 59 Infantry Division — has been raised and will be fully operational this year.
The mountain strike corps, designated as 17 Corps, is meant for the northern border and is headquartered at Panagarh in Bengal. It was approved by the government in 2013 with a proposed strength of 80,000 soldiers at a cost of Rs 64,000 crore to be spent over a seven-year period. However, sources said, there has been a squeeze on release of funds since, raising questions about shortfall in ammunition and equipment for units already raised.
“The shortfall was mainly in ammunition, which has been made up by and large by invoking emergency financial provisions. As far as the artillery, air defence and aviation assets are concerned, we will get them as part of the modernisation plans,” said the official.
Sources said the army is “deeply concerned” about the recent changes in the command and control structure of China’s People Liberation Army, and is exploring ways to counter that threat. But military officials insisted that 17 Corps was not a “China Strike Corps”.
“We are moving fast from a threat-based to a capability-based army. The mountain strike corps is a part of that change and can be used in any mountainous region, which means all the northern borders. It would augment our posture along the borders, stretching from Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Ladakh in the northwest,” said the official.