Building roads in the higher reaches if these states is a painstaking process with the working season available to the Border Roads barely limited to three or four months. Similarly establishing permanent infrastructure for troops, creating a stable logistics line, putting in place ammunition and supply hubs besides strategically placed artillery gun positions is a long term process. Nothing is going to be easy.After the initial euphoria, the reality check.The financial sanction given by India's Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Wednesday to raise a Mountain Strike Corps specifically aimed at launching offensive operations against China--if need be--is but a first step in what promises to be a long haul in adding 40,000 new troops to the country's 1.3 million strong Army.The figure of Rs 64,000 crore (roughly 11 billion dollars at 1$= Rs 60 rate), remember, is to be spent over seven years which is just as well since raising new formations as large as a Corps is not an easy task. It is further difficult to make that formation capable of mountain warfare. For mountains gobble up troops; they take a heavy toll on man and machine. Living at altitudes upwards of 12,000 feet going upto 22,000 feet and being fighting fit is no child's play. The Himalaya--along which the entire 4,000 km China frontier is spread out--is an unforgiving terrain. So just 'sanctioning" money will mean nothing.A sustained effort by all stakeholders--MoD, Ministry of finance, Army, IAF, Border Roads Organisation and most importantly the Ministry of Forest and Environment along with respective state governments--will have to be on the same page if the wish to have a Mountain Strike Corps is to be translated into a reality.Why do I mention all these ministries? Because in the recent past, the 'Green Brigade' has proved to be a big obstacle in building strategic roads in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Ladakh. It is nobody's case that environment should not be protected but a balance needs to struck in caring for the environment and national security imperatives. The state governments will need to back the plan by facilitating speedy allotment of land in far flung areas.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Only money for a Mountain Strike Corps in not enough
The Defence Ministry will have to work in close coordination with the Finance Ministry to release required funds on time.
Finding the right contractors with the right skills and willingness to work on isolated, remote areas is another big challenge. The IAF for instance has been trying to finalise contracts to upgrade seven advanced landing grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh to enhance its ability to airlift troops rapidly all along the China frontier for the past three tears but is still to a find a satisfactory solution.
Infrastructure apart, equipping mountain troops with the requisite wherewithal is a complicated task. Purchasing special winter clothing, imparting high altitude warfare skills to troops is easier than acquiring mountain specific weapons platforms is not.
The new mountain corps will require to have inbuilt airlift capability, light artillery which can be easily transported, even airlifted in the high mountains. Given India's painfully slow process of weapons acquisition, empowering the Mountain Strike Corps quickly will be a big challenge.
Given these difficulties, Beijing will not be unduly bothered although it will certainly make the mandatory noises may be by describing the Indian decision as provocative.
It is all the more necessary for the government to walk the talk in making the new formation a reality by adhering to the timelines.