India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is expected to approve a proposal to deploy 40,000 additional troops along the 4,057-km line of actual control (LAC) that acts as the border between China and India, the Times of India reported Saturday morning.
“The Army has proposed a mountain strike corps, two independent infantry brigades and two independent armored brigades to plug its operational gaps along the entire line of actual control (LAC) with China, as well as to acquire offensive capabilities,” the newspaper report said.
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“The proposed mountain strike corps, with over 40,000 soldiers and headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal, will for the first time give India the capability to also launch offensive action into Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the event of a Chinese attack.”
The new forces would be part of a larger plan to strengthen India’s defenses along its northern border with China and western border with Pakistan. Between 2009 and 2010, India beefed up its LAC presence by raising two new infantry divisions consisting of 35,000 troops.
The government is also planning on spending around US$4.6 billion building infrastructure on the Indian side of the LAC, and will deploy more mechanized elements and restructure troop formations to achieve greater mobility. The mountain strike corps would be part of India’s goal of having a rapid response force along the border.
The CCS’s approval of the plan will come after the Ministry of Defense (MoD) responds to questions raised by the Ministry of Finance, the Times of India report said. Previously, the MoD had said raising the extra 40,000 troops would cost $14.3 billion, which would be spread across India’s 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) and could even stretch into the 13th Five Year Plan (2017-2022).
Back in March, India’s Defense Minister AK Antony told Parliament the army also intended to raise 30 infantry battalions during the 13th Five Year Plan, although these wouldn’t necessarily be stationed along the LAC. According to The Indian Express, the cost of raising these 30 infantry battalions would be similar to the US$14.3 billion that raising the 40,000 troops for the LAC will cost.
Indian officials maintain that their decision to beef up forces along the LAC is a response to what they perceive as China’s military modernization in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). In particular, Indian lawmakers and officials have previously expressed alarm with the infrastructure modernization in the TAR, including the construction of five airbases, new rail networks and 58,000 km of new roads.
India’s concern is that the PLA could use this new infrastructure to mobilize large numbers of troops along the LAC more rapidly. According to Indian press accounts, with the new roads and railways the PLA can amass 30,000 troops in around 20 days compared to the 90 days it previously would have taken them.
Although the plan to deploy an additional 40,000 troops along the LAC has been under consideration for some time now, moving forward has taken on a greater sense of urgency for many Indian officials in the wake of the three week standoff along the LAC that began in April.