New strike corps for China border - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 23 August 2011

New strike corps for China border

Tibet's Chumbi valley, as seen from Nathu La in Sikkim. India's new strike corps would respond to Chinese aggression with an attack into territorial salients like the Chumbi valley

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Aug 11

In 2009, New Delhi acted decisively in sanctioning two new army divisions, about 35,000 troops, to strengthen Indian defences in Arunachal, which China claims as a part of Tibet. It can now be revealed that New Delhi has also sanctioned a new mountain strike corps, consisting of an additional 40,000 soldiers, which will be permanently located in bases in northeast India. The new corps will retaliate against any major Chinese ingress into India by launching an offensive into Tibet.

For decades after India’s humiliation at the hands of China in 1962, New Delhi shrank from a robust defence posture on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC), fearing that it might provoke China. In the aftermath of 1962, through the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian Army stayed away from the border, remaining behind a self-imposed “Limit of Patrolling (LoP)”. In the 1980s, the army returned to the LAC, but remained entirely defensive in outlook. The sanctioning of a strike corps, therefore, signals a dramatic new assertiveness in New Delhi.

Business Standard has been aware of this development since 2009, but has refrained from reporting on it after requests from top-level MoD officials. Now, with the outlines of this development emerging in the media, Business Standard no longer feels bound by confidentiality.

The new mountain strike corps will control two divisions that are specially trained and equipped for an attack into Tibet. If China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captures any Indian territory, by quickly concentrating an attacking force over Tibet’s impressive road network, the Indian Army would not be forced into bloody, Kargil-style counterattacks to recapture that territory. Instead, the new strike corps would launch its own riposte, advancing into Tibet and capturing a vulnerable chunk of Chinese territory, e.g. the Chumbi Valley that projects into Sikkim and Bhutan. Several such objectives would be identified in advance and detailed preparations made for the offensives.

The new strike corps will have its own mountain artillery, combat engineers, anti-aircraft guns and radio equipment. It would also be supported by Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters, operating from newly renovated bases in northeastern India. On 26th July, the then IAF chief confirmed that Sukhoi-30 fighters have already been deployed to air bases at Tezpur and Chhabua. On 25th June, he told NDTV that Jorhat, Guwahati, Mohanbari, Bagdogra and Hashimara were also being developed as air bases. The IAF is also modernising eight ALGs (Advanced Landing Grounds), which would be essential for quickly building up and resupplying a strike corps. These air bases would also be crucial for airborne operations, especially heli-lifting forces to key objectives behind the enemy frontlines.

The proposal to raise two additional divisions for the defence of Arunachal Pradesh as well as a strike corps dates back to 2007. It began as a decision of the China Study Group, a secretive government body that considers all strategic issues relating to China. Thereafter, the army’s Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) prepared a cabinet note. The decision to raise the additional divisions was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 14th May 2009. This was the last major decision taken by the UPA government before the elections of 2009. It was rushed through because top UPA leaders felt that, if the UPA were not re-elected, the new government would begin the decision-making process afresh, losing another two years.

To manage the expenses, it was decided that the two defensive mountain divisions would first be raised during the 11th army plan (2007-2012). Next, the strike corps, including its two mountain divisions, would be raised during the 12th Defence Plan (2012-2017). The cost of raising a new Indian Army mountain division is estimated to be Rs 700 crore.

The 4057-kilometre LAC consists of three sectors. In the western sector in Ladakh, which India’s 14 Corps defends, the PLA already controls most of the area that China claims. The central sector, at the UP-Tibet border, which India’s 6 Mountain Division defends, is relatively insignificant. The most contentious sector is the eastern sector, which includes Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims 90,000 square kilometres of territory that India occupies. It is here, driven by fear of Chinese aggression, that India is strengthening its capabilities by raising new formations.

A mountain strike corps will provide India with strategic capabilities that were badly missed when Mao Tse-tung marched the PLA into Tibet in 1950. While considering its responses, the Indian government asked the army chief of that time, General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa, what resources he had to intervene on behalf of Tibet. Cariappa could spare just one battalion (800 soldiers). And so New Delhi watched as Tibet was subjugated and the China border advanced all the way to the Himalayas.


  1. Col. Shukla-

    Yay!!!!! :) :) Hopefully we have some HARM assets too. Too many AA formations across the border.

  2. Dear Ajay Sir,
    This is welcome move, - better late than never. It would be better if this new strike corps has dedicated air assets some on disposal such as Jaguars and Su30MKI that may be handy at disposal. It shall also own some assets such as Prahaar SSM, and HALE UAVs with data sharing with Airforce AEW. Also, rapid landing / relocation of M777 howitzers and pinakas. Planners shall also develop staretgies for rapid deployement of engineers with this corps.

  3. If the PLA launch an aggressive operation again and take more territory from India, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves. As the Chinese say; Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!

    Merely putting men at the border will not suffice, if they are stranded and have to wage a guerrilla war. We need to build roads, railways and airports. Not to mention negotiate a transit agreement with Bangladesh for Indian troops to transit in times of need.

  4. Tibet should be free from Chinese dictators. Their leader is the HH Dalai Lama.

  5. Dear Sir,

    In your article you've written that a MSC was considered for Arunachal Pradesh in 2007.

    But the recent news reports say that the new Corps HQ will be based in Panagarh with Ranchi based 23 Infantry Division under it;the second division of the Corps will be raised in due course of time.

    So, if the idea is to be able to mount offense in AP, do you think the new Corps HQ should have been placed east of Siliguri Corridor with Divisions in NE proper - may be along Brahmaputra Valley? The present location seems appropriate to plug any any gaps between 33 Corps and 4 Corps and for offensive action in the areas mentioned by you.

    Or, may be, we may see additional Corps with 2 mountain divisions raised seperately from recent announcement?

    Awaiting your comments.


  6. The good thing about our border with China is that it is rugged and defendable.The converse though is that logistics and reinforcement will be issue.The Chinese may strike in deep elsewhere.Hence mobility and firepower will be crucial and so will be Indian capability for stand-off attacks.The Army is taking the needed steps and a s far as training and operational tactics are concerned the army is well upto it.But one thing is clear whenever the Chinese attack it will be sudden, massive and unexpected.With the Chinese I say,be prepared and alert when relations seem at their the best or a solution appears to be imminent of some long pending issue.

  7. @Ajai sir

    The formation of the new Mountain Strike Corps should be not just to counter the PLA moves but also inflict heavy casualties on PLA and recover the lost territories in 1962 namely Thag la, Dho La, Namka Chu, Yumtso La, and the pass north of Sep La.

    Also it must contain elements from E22/SFF as they are best suited to fight in those regions after Nubra Gaurds and Ladakh Scouts were regularized into IA. Whats more important we need weapons specifically made that can be moved in these areas swiftly.

    This includes not just the 145 M777 ULH bought from US but also weapons suited to operate in inaccessible areas. Like a lighter 8 cell Smerch, 120 mm AMOS system loaded on BMP2 that fires laser guided ammo to over 10 km distance, not to mention customized uniforms we sorely missed in 1962. With these I hope we can make up for the loses of 1962.

    Ajai what you said about KM Kariaappa willing to release just 800 men in 1950 may be because he was upset at not being given 2 days of time in 1948 to recover Muzzafarabad. Whatever the past the current fact is we need to conjure up resources to face the dragon

    Awaiting your response.


    can you please elaborate what is a HARM asset


    Joydeep Ghosh

  8. The Chinese provocation has finally helped us to awake and see the threat. Thanks to the Chinese patrol that not only intruded into Indian territory but also marked it with red paint. Kudos to the PLA.
    Long live India.

  9. Though it might not be known in the public realm, I do hope that we have a large force of Tibetans also ready -- for guerilla warfare. Guerilla attacks by Tibetans will have a more deeper impact on the Chinese forces/psyche and will also embolden other dissenting classes within China to revolt -- this will ensure that war China will not be just to secure our borders but also to break China. They and their Pakistani friends will also be planning on the same. The next war with either Pak or China will be major regional conflict.

  10. When I used to hypothesize about China and its perfidy in the NE, I used to think “wouldn’t the best case scenario be for the IA to hit back hard and fast, blitzkrieg style, and beat a path almost to Lhasa”

    I am overjoyed at this news.

    In my mind the GOI and the IA just gave to PRC and PLA a massive middle finger (i.e. bird).


  11. So sometimes the government does do its homework, now thats news. Almost made it to Nathu la once while touring but got only as far as tsomgo lake :(.

    I agree with the person who wrote about developing infrastructure in that region. However, If left to the government it would take years if not decades, the best bet is to allow the private sector to set up 'Build operate and Transfer' type roads just like they do outside the north east.

    This can happen if the government finds some way of kickstarting the economies in that region.

  12. @ Joydeep -

    Anti radiation missiles.

    The Chinese have pretty dense SAM coverage, with Russian and reverse engineered, (and quite good) SAMs. They are also rumured to be looking at Over The Horizon radars on the plateau, though the efficacy of OTH radars in the border terrain is doubtful. Point is, they have excellent radard coverage and a bountiful supply of SAM batteries. So, its good to have anti-radiation missiles handy..

  13. who wants to repeat chicken neck blunder... again by keeping you new strike corps at siliguri... well the chinese will be happy... more than anyone else...

  14. In any conflict with China on the northern or eastern borders, the success will depend on how the logistics are managed over unforgiving mountainous Indian terrain as well as deep within enemy territory. China being a highly networked and connected country relative to India. They can gather forces for counter offensive at short notice. How can Indian armed forces stave off and break through such an encirclement. Just my 2 cents, before being too optimistic and overtly simplistic about such discussions.

  15. Every time I read about China, I feel compelled to ask, how much truth in the reports of Chinese grabbing our territory inch by inch in Ladakh area..Col. Shukla, please answer!

  16. A strike corps is always best located to the rear so give it maximum scope for concentrating where operational needs require. You dont want to put it too close to the front in one sector or the other. But readers should look at the terrain on Googlemaps. The development is very welcome, but India really does have a big disadvantage because it has to climb up to the Tibet plateau.

    Ajai can correct me, but if I recall India as successor state to the British inherited British rights over Tibet and used to maintain a battalion in Tibet. Presumably this is the battalion Ajai relates the Army Chief as saying he had available. In any case Government policy was to recognize Tibet as part of China, in line with the meme "we are both victims of imperialism, so let us be friends." I do not think there was any serious thought given to defending any part of Tibet from the Chinese advance.

  17. That's refreshing news maybe it"s right to assume India is changing from the elephant to the tiger. Whatever can be deployed to deter china is much needed and it's awsome to see some plans that involve teeth that can bite back, reasures the public. Hopefully situations won't escalate and Nepal and others assist in any hostilities. Great story col 10/4 out

  18. This is a typical response from the Indian military. China has been building up its infrastructure, army units - incl para units, armoured vehicles, missiles in Tibet for many, many years. Yet it took us till 2009 to recognize this build up. And 1 million+ Indian army does not have 50-60000 men to spare for dedicated units to defend these areas. Any units there need to be conditioned to high altitudes, have specialized vehicles to move men and supplies, mountain artillery and air defense units, offset lack of infrastructure with landing zones and airfields for air dropping of supplies. We are now going to create from scratch strike forces when we are woefully short of suitable artillery and vehicles, have no viable air defense in significant numbers, no light tanks for use in this region. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Col Shukla you spent some time in Tawang recently. Whats your take on all this.


    could you kindly... update the link... as .htm m is missing...

  20. And how are these 70k odd troops supposed to march into Tibet? On Pushpak vimans and Chetak scooters? Where is the road and rail infrastructure to make the last mile access possible?

  21. @heberian

    thanks for the update i asked it as somehow it slipped out of mind but later recollected.

    Though i agree with you that we need HARMs but in the cold high Himalayas, any war wont be won in the air by aircrafts, but will be won on by armymen who capture the heights, and from those heights a gimlet will be enough to shoot down any aircrafts. Most aircrafts still find it hard to operate in the rarified atmosphere.

    As for your view on OTH radars, I feel even WL radars wont work. At best ECM jammers can be put to use, but even how much effective they will be is doubtful. So ultimately it boils to the men who take over the heights.

    Awaiting your response


    Joydeep Ghosh

  22. Prasun K Sengupta: Dunno why that fella Ajai Shukla from BROADSWORD is making such a big deal about this by claiming: "Business Standard has been aware of this development since 2009, but has refrained from reporting on it after requests from top-level MoD officials."
    As far as I can recall, no one from the MoD ever told anyone in FORCE to refrain from making the above revelations. So why do some of these so-called 'desi' journalists thrive on such self-imposed censorship practices that are totally uncalled for? For acquiring some gratifying feeling of self-importance? Beats me. Maybe they're smoking something which I'm not.
    [check his latest comment form @]

    Dear Ajaiji, what's your take on this comment? Thanks sir. Nithya.

  23. How many Chinese incursions have this new set of teeth stopped?


    check the above, china is building up and improving fast, we need complete theater dominance in NE, and a very strong navy, seems like anna's great movement is masking all defense news, i support anna, but we also need to highlight our security.

  25. A STRIKE CORPS and yet aim to capture Chumbi Valley only? What a shame. On a good day, one can see Chomolhari (in Bhutan) from base of Dorjila (in Sikkim). These guys should aim higher or stop calling it STRIKE CORPS.
    Then, why only two divisions. For that matter only one Corps. We should have offensive capability in all 3 sectors, at least to keep China guessing. Ofcourse, Pakistan too would feel apprehensive.
    I think we should be more ambitious, at least Armoured Corps guys should.

  26. This is merely a finger in the dyke. The Chinese still enjoy massive superiority over Indian forces.

  27. I would rather not discuss attack plan details in public forums. Ajay should be more careful. Although PLA has taken all possible Indian response into account, we still should refrain from discussing plans in public.

  28. @ajai sir

    Setback!Setaback! a huge setback, the AK Antony led MoD has returned the MSC proposal to IA owing to huge expenses it wil cost. Next we will hear setting up of committees to ponder over expenses incurred on MSC and a committee on viability of MSC and then ultimately we might hear some day that plan for a MSC has been altogether dropped.

    sigh another India example of procastination

    your views please


    Joydeep Ghosh

  29. @ Joydeep

    I agree; radars and complex terrains don't always go well together. Aerostats are a partial answer.

    Yes, it boils down to the men. And the supply chain. As for our supply chain in the mountains, well surely you know where we stand.

    Aircraft with PGMs are quite potent, as seen in '99. That's why China's potential to deny the skies using their SAM batteries become a critical consideration.

    Oh, and their DF 21's can be quite a distraction too. It's not only for carrier strikes..

  30. Ajai Sir,
    While I like the sound what you have mentioned in your article, I have read some contradicting report in Media. Time of India has mentioned that money needed to raise Strike corp is around 12000 crore, and worst, MOD has raised object to this saying its too expensive, could you clarify on the latest position!

  31. To anon@11:10 25th August:

    Don't give credence to that idiot...his entire post, which he used to tom-tom his inside knowledge was/is factually incorrect. I posted a rebuttal and called his bluff...and as expected, he deleted by post.

    Well, there is only that much one can copy and paste from brochures, I guess.

  32. Dear Ajai,

    I've read in the Hindustan Times that the MoD bureaucrats have returned the file for the strike corp citing high capital expenditure. They have asked the Army to re-submit their proposal. Has the MoD started the game of playing ducks and drakes with this issue? Is another "Himalayan Blunder" is in the offing?

  33. well as per this the new MSC is not happening soon..........

  34. It is encouraging news.My suggestion to the Army brass is that generally what India lacks is decisiveness at the top levels . I have seen it in my 40 years in Indian and International civil service and also at the UN in very high positions. So the strike corps should be commanded by the very best commanders pysically and mentally in top condiition.The battalions and the brigades as well as the divisions too.All the officers should be continously briefed on changing scenarios by the competent senior officers from the Diplomatic and civil service.

  35. We need airborne special ops to work behind the enemy lines in Tibet


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