Military & Aerospace

Implications of a Mountain Strike Corps
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Issue Vol. 29.1 Jan-Mar 2014 | Date : 11 Mar , 2014

China’s past history is laced with aggression and blatant disregard to world opinion. The PLA is well ahead of the Indian Army and this ever-widening gap, if not checked and bridged, will catapult Chinese adventurism. We should expect no respite from increasing Chinese pressure. China-Pakistan are hand in glove in waging asymmetric war against India and the situation is likely to get increasingly volatile inadvertently egged on by US-China and US-Pakistan equations and heightened Chinese aggressive posture. India needs to be prepared for a Chinese thrust into Arunachal Pradesh. We should have the capacity to thwart that and go for North Tibet employing not just the Mountain Strike Corps but all elements of national power.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued to follow Mao’s legacy of ‘Power Flows from the Barrel of the Gun’…

It is official. India’s first Mountain Strike Corps will be christened 17 Corps. Rhetoric in the Chinese media was on expected lines since they already went ballistic earlier on India raising two Mountain Divisions (56 and 71), which actually was a move only to fill age-old voids in the Corps deployed on India’s North-Eastern borders. A Corps normally has three Divisions. The newly raised 56 and 71 Mountain Divisions constitute the third Division in the respective Corps.

Although the Mountain Strike Corps was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in July 2013, the official announcement is just in time as China has gone aggressive in East China Sea by announcing an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) encompassing Senkaku Islands and has resumed her banter over Arunachal Pradesh being ‘South Tibet’ in wake of President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The latter reinforces doubts about China’s sincerity towards joint agreements including the recently concluded Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA).

The Mountain Strike Corps

The 17 Corps is estimated to cost around Rs. 64,000 crore and is slated to comprise two infantry divisions supported by three independent armoured brigades, three artillery brigades, an engineer brigade, an air defence brigade, an aviation brigade and logistics support units. Planned to be raised over the next five to seven years, 17 Corps will enhance the strength of the Indian Army by 90,000 personnel. This would include ancillary support and logistics units. In the interim, elements of the newly raised 56 and 71 Mountain Divisions deployed to plug gaps in the defences in Arunachal Pradesh, are likely to be made available as reserves to the Mountain Corps. Such an arrangement would also continue post-raising and during employment of the Mountain Strike Corps, as applicable to all Strike Corps. The defensive/reserve formations would not only be employed to secure launch pads for offensive operations of the Strike Corps, once the thrust lines have gone in, the defensive formations in wake of the thrust lines would generally come under the command of the Strike Corps to act as reserves and add weight along the axis of attack and exploit success.

The China-Pakistan nexus is the strongest that any country can possibly have with China…

Why the Mountain Strike Corps?

If India has come a long way from Nehruvian beliefs, no matter how naïve, that the country’s security can be looked after by police forces and the security of India’s North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) can be looked after by Chinese brethren, to raising of a Mountain Strike Corps, China’s obsessive territorial greed, deceit and asymmetric war on India are responsible for it. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued to follow Mao’s legacy of “Power flows from the barrel of the gun”.

Accelerating CNP, diminishing US stature and US withdrawal from Afghanistan have all fuelled Chinese super power ambitions. Her ‘Doctrine of Pre-emption and Surprise’ that encompasses surprise, deception and shock exposes the mockery of her peace façade. Modernisation of Chinese armed forces is ominous not only along the Tibet border but also in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). She has shown scant regard to neighbours by unilaterally extending her maritime boundaries, claiming the entire East China Sea and parts of South China Sea. She claims entire Arunachal Pradesh as “South Tibet”. China says she can wait for 100 years to take over Taiwan but Chinese defence officials are categorical that this objective will be achieved much earlier.

We should expect a similar Chinese approach to the so-called “South Tibet”. China has settled her borders with all her neighbours less India and Bhutan. Sitting smug on 38,000 of Indian Territory of Aksai Chin and 5,180 of the Shaksgam Valley in POK gifted by Pakistan, China’s claims to 90,000 of Arunachal Pradesh are not mere deflection of the Tibet issue. It indicates her resolve to reach the warm waters of the Indian Ocean through as many land routes as possible. That is why the road and railway through the Karakoram to Pakistan, transportation corridors through Myanmar and repeated intrusions in Bhutan; claiming Doklam Plateau (last high ground overlooking the Siliguri Corridor) and renewed road construction between Zuri and Phuteogang Ridge that overlooks the disputed Charithang Valley. The threat is more serious when viewed in conjunction with the Maoists of Nepal (spawned with the blessings of Beijing) and their links with Maoists in India.

The 17 Corps is estimated to cost around Rs. 64,000 crore…

The China-Pakistan nexus is the strongest that any country can possibly have with China. Probably, Pakistan’s strategic location has a lot to do with this. Had POK and the Wakhan Corridor been under Indian control, China would have viewed India differently. Chinese design to use Pakistan as a front for waging asymmetric war on India dates back to the 1960s when Zhou-en-Lai suggested to Ayub Khan that Pakistan should prepare for a prolonged conflict with India instead of short-term wars. He advised Pakistan to raise a Militia force to act behind enemy lines. Pakistan raised this Militia in the form of Jihadis (LeT and JeM) and planting of armed modules in India began way back in 1992-1993.

That was the initiation of China-Pakistan asymmetric war against India and to keep us in check through terrorism, nuclear, biological and missile cooperation and arms/technology transfer. The Trans-Karakoram Highway, vital for commercial and strategic purposes connects the Northern areas of Pakistan to the Xinjiang province in China. Some 11,000 Chinese are presently undertaking so-called development projects in POK/Pakistan that ostensibly includes digging 22 tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) for the deployment of missiles, Pakistan has reportedly leased GB to China for 50 years. Simultaneously, China has been making deep intrusions into Eastern Ladakh, nibbling into Indian territory that has totaled up to 400 as per some estimates. Similarly, there have been periodic intrusions in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Pakistan has reportedly leased GB reportedly to China for 50 years…

We may pray for a strong China and Pakistan but China-Pakistan will lose no opportunity to dismember India. Significantly, Zhan Loe’s article recommending China should splinter India into 20-30 parts, was published in the Journal of the Institute of Strategic Studies that has Chinese government backing. Chinese policy towards India has been no holds barred despite the facade; safeguarding Azhar Masood of JeM from being labeled a terrorist, objecting to the ADB loan to Arunachal, flooding fake currency into India, supplying arms to insurgent groups in India and permitting insurgent camps in Chinese territory. Asymmetric strategies have been crafted with great care. Pakistan is a willing ally with convergence of aims to downsize India. Despite the new Pakistani Army Chief, the military-ISI combine will likely continue to rule the roost.

There is significant Chinese presence in Nepal including PLA in Northern Nepal under the garb of development projects. China has also been known to be training Naga, Mizo and other North-East insurgents in the Paoshan area of Southern China in addition to ULFA bases and training camps in Chinese territory. China has armed the United Wa State Army (UWSA) controlling the ‘golden triangle in Myanmar with missile-fitted helicopters making it the most potent terrorist organisation in the region, far more powerful than the LTTE. This has the potential to create grave instability in India’s neighbourhood.’

China has been showing maps of Tibet’s 4,056-kilometre border with India reduced by 2,000 kilometres and Jammu & Kashmir as part of China. Peppered with questions on the map showing Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as part of its sovereign territory called Zhangnan or South Tibet, and Ladakh in China and Kashmir in Pakistan, Zhang Yan, the erstwhile Chinese Ambassador to India had the audacity to tell an Indian journalist to shut up.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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8 thoughts on “Implications of a Mountain Strike Corps

  1. The Chinese weakness lies in the Indian Ocean, ha ha lol you really think they will attack india by the sea, The Indian Army has the right idea let the other side know you can strike back “ mountain strike corps is not the only option, they need one for the Pakistani border.

  2. The 17 mountain strike corps must be fascinating contemplation for many military enthusiasts around the world. I thought that the corps would be mostly comprised of mountaineer soldiers and used for defensive-offensive operations on the border. I gather that the strike corps are to have 60,000 soldiers and I don’t exactly know how many soldiers will man the two mountain divisions of the strike corps. China doesn’t need mountain divisions for defensive purposes in Tibet, according to my opinion. China can transport and deploy regular troops on the Tibetan plateau.
    I don’t feel that China wants to attack India, but I do feel that India should raise the 17 mountain strike corps. Mountain troops perhaps focus on military operations in mountainous terrain. If such troops train and are deployed in large numbers, then they have many advantages over regular troops in certain scenarios. Such troops must regularly study and reflect on how to operate in mountainous conditions as advantageously as possible.
    On the China-India relationship, it seems the prevailing perception is that two strong neighbours are likely to aggravate the sentiments of each other, particularly if their armies are in contact of communication on the border. This is not the case in Western Europe, where neighbouring nations are allied to each other. I wonder how easy it would be for China to ally with her neighbours. Military rivalry does not arise on it’s own accord. There are other other reasons that further military considerations. On the matter of Arunachal Pradesh, perhaps China feels that Tibetans can infiltrate into India and back, because of their will towards the activity. There are ethnic Tibetans in Arunachal Pradesh who don’t agree with Chinese authority in Tibet, perhaps. China might wonder on what India will do, if a sizeable number of people on the Indian side of the border want to act against China.

  3. I had written an article for Indian Defense Review in 1998 (published in 1999) advocating raising of two Mountain Strike Corps, one each for Kashmir and North-east. Am happy to see some progress towards that end.

  4. Rafale Fighter planes are urgently required for complimenting the Mountain Strike Corps. Rafales have excellent Interdiction Bombing Capabilities ( as proven in Libya ). This is required to neutralize PLA ‘s supply routes in Tibet.

    An independent Tibet is required as a strategic buffer between India and China.

    • During Second World War Long Range Allies ( USA , UK ) Bombers took off from air bases in our Northeast , crossed Himalayas and bombed Japanese positions in China.

      Nehru dismantled many of these precious Defence Assets.

  5. for all the talk that China Pakistan nexus is dangerous for India China also has doubts on pak as Chinese terrorist organizations get their training from pak terror groups. China has a big problem dealing with ughur Muslims of ne region who recently killed 33people In a railway station in China. China’s biggest rival is the US and not us and considering us almost encircles China from South Korea to now Phillipines the last thing it wants is for us to join hands with the US. that would be doomsday for them as it would complete the American pivot in Asia.

  6. A bit of a negative view.

    I have a bit of dispute with author’s hypothetical view that Chou En Lai, advised Ayub Khan to build a militia force like LET to fight a prolonged war with India in 1960s. That is the time frame when Ayub was advising Nehru of a joint Defence of Kashmir, against the Chinese aggression. Also, that was just the time that Chinese began to build bridges with Pakistan. On their initial contact, it is unlikely that the Chinese would advise Pakistan to build this ill fated militia. The latter has hurt Pakistan more than it has hurt India as Pakistani Taliban is doing it now.

    Yes, the author is right that mountains absorb troops. He tends to suggest that new strike corp troops will be too little . I disagree with the author that this theory is applicable to India only. It is more applicable to Chinese troops more who would cross the inhospitable passes of the McMohan line and then attack the Indian defence line. The same mountains would absorb Chinese troops like a hungry shark. No amount of Chinese troops would be sufficient to make a dent in India’s defences. Today, India is well prepared. Those days of November 1962 are behind us. Chinese seem to know that better than Indian opinion makers.

    I am quoting Chou En Lai during his 1960/61 trip to India:

    “We must have self confidence, what others can do, we can also do, certainly better than they.”

    Have confidence in yourself; Chinese have other obligations in Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Russia and greatest of all the threats to China the US 7th fleet. They prefer to concentrate there than on Tibet and India. Also never forget that Chinese are the greatest propagandists also.

    • Hari, You are underestimating the Chinese. They are well aware of their problems mainly the logistic ones in Tibet and are moving real time to over come them. They have a rail link to Lhasa – this isn’t an exercise in tourism; its a strategic move to rapidly build up logistics. They further plan to move this rail line to Sinkiang through Aksai Chin. They have up graded all their Air Fields in Tibet to 10000 ft runways. They have gone in for large scale development of agricultural farms in Sinkiang. Their road communication in Tibet and Sinkiang is very well developed and improved. What we face is modern Chinese Army, not the rag-tag mass run by political leaders.

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