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Friday, 19 July 2013

From Today's Papers - 19 Jul 2013
Mountain Strike Corps
It will bolster Army on China border

The decision by the Cabinet Committee on Security to raise a Mountian Strike Corps for the Army is a long overdue step in the right direction. The last and only time until now the government ever raised formations specific to the Sino-Indian border was five decades ago soon after India's humiliating defeat in 1962 when ten mountain divisions were raised. From then onwards, the Army has been unable to add any formations for India's vast and disputed 4,000 km long border with China, almost all of it mountainous.

This is surprising considering that India's borders with China remain undefined, which from time to time has been a source of friction between the two countries. Mountain warfare is far more difficult and cumbersome than fighting in the plains where the terrain favours easier mobility of both men and machine. Warfare in the mountains is markedly different and is manpower intensive because of limitations imposed by the terrain. Mountains consume troops in huge numbers. Both men and equipment need to be as light in weight as possible and even then are slow to move. High altitude, intense cold and low oxygen impose added restrictions on soldiers making mountains one of the most challenging and daunting battle grounds worldwide. In the case of the high Himalayas, where altitudes average 15,000 to 20,000 feet, guarding a border, let alone fighting a war, is a herculean task.

The Army currently has three strike corps, all oriented towards plains warfare. Even though India's border disputes, whether with China or Pakistan, essentially involve a mountain terrain, India, inexplicably, has never had a mountain strike corps for deployment entirely on offensive missions in the event of a war. The Kargil War in 1999 exposed India's lack of preparedness for mountain warfare. Then again, whereas India has four full-fledged regional Army commands: Northern, Western, South Western and Southern --oriented towards Pakistan, it only has three -- Northern, Central and Eastern --oriented towards China with which preparations along the border have been relatively neglected. Intentions can change overnight but capabilities take time to build. Hence, it only makes sense for the Indian armed forces to be prepared for any eventuality, more so with China taking rapid steps in improving their infrastructure and capabilities along the Sino-Indian border.
After BSF firing and protests, Kashmir Valley tense, curfew on Friday
Six people were shot dead and nearly 20 reported injured in Jammu and Kashmir's Ramban area during clashes with the officers of the Border Security Force (BSF) this morning.

The protests later spread to the 300-kilometre-long Jammu-Srinagar National Highway after which the highway was closed.

The violence this morning erupted in Gool town of Ramban district, around 145 kilometres from Srinagar at a BSF station where a group of people had gathered to protest against the alleged manhandling of a religious leader by the BSF men on Wednesday evening.
The BSF said they fired in defence when protesters tried to storm their camp.

The authorities have imposed curfew in the Kashmir Valley in the wake of the protests and they say it will continue tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Ramban Collector has been transferred. Mobile Internet services too have been suspended in Kashmir; authorities say it was done in order to prevent rumour-mongering on social networking sites.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned the incident. "It is highly unacceptable to shoot at unarmed protesters just because they were reportedly protesting manhandling of an Imam of their area," Mr Abdullah said in a statement.

In Delhi, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde regretted the killings and ordered a probe. "I have ordered an inquiry to be conducted without any loss of time to ascertain the circumstances leading to the firing. I assure that any use of excessive force or irresponsible action shall be dealt with strictly," he said.

Clashes also erupted in Srinagar after people protested against the killings. Separatist groups have called for a three-day strike against the deaths from Friday.

This is the second incident of alleged civilian killings by security forces in less than three weeks. Two people were killed in Bandipore district in north Kashmir reportedly during Army firing.
India's new mountain corps can't match China's military capabilities across LAC
NEW DELHI: India may not place any major component of the proposed mountain strike corps in Arunachal Pradesh as part of an effort not to further aggravate the tenuous ties with China. Army sources, however, also point out that militarily too it won't be a wise strategy to place any key component of the offensive arm close to the line of actual control (LAC).

The proposed corps would be India's first offensive corps with mountain warfare capabilities and the fourth strike corps. However, by no means would it match China's aggressive military capabilities and infrastructure across the LAC.

The proposal for raising the strike corps has been hanging fire for the past several years, and had been delayed primarily because of financial considerations. Simultaneously, India is also trying to create a modern infrastructure close to the border, both for improving civilian connectivity and military movement.

The CCS, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Wednesday approved the long-pending proposal of the Army to create its first mountain strike corps, meant for offensive operations across China border, at a budget of over Rs 64,000 crore in about seven years.

Terming as "pragmatic" the government's decision to raise a mountain strike corps along the Chinese border, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday said the country prepares for peace as much as for "tough" times.

"In national interest, we will do whatever needs to be done at the appropriate level. We work for peace as much as for tough times," he said, adding that the government takes "steps whenever necessary".

Speaking on the sidelines of an art exhibition, he added, "We live in a world which combines principles with pragmatism ... we also maintain a rational, decent balance in our policies."

According to available indications, the government is not inclined to place any major component of the strike corps in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims to be southern Tibet and a disputed territory. Indian activities in Arunachal have been touchy for China for long, and New Delhi wouldn't want to create any further damage to its already tenuous ties with Beijing.

The tricky Arunachal issue could also be avoided because the Army wouldn't be inclined to place any major component of the strike corps so close to the border. Formations of the corps would likely be based in West Bengal, Assam, Odisha and Jharkhand. In some of these states fresh land may have to be acquired, in other places the Army already has enough land to accommodate the new formations, sources said.

As of now the plan is to headquarter the corps at Panagarh in West Bengal, but a final decision would be taken after the government sanction comes through.

The corps would have two infantry divisions trained in mountain warfare, one air defence brigade, two artillery brigades, one each engineering and aviation brigades. While the artillery brigades could be looking at inducting ultra light howitzers, the aviation brigade could boast of attack helicopters and Boeing's heavy lift helicopter Chinooks.

In recent years, India has been making steady efforts to improve its military capability along the LAC. Indian Army has already raised two new infantry divisions at Lekhapani and Missamari in Assam in recent times.
Mountain strike corps will bridge gaps in India's defence capabilites: Experts
New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) The government's decision to raise a 45,000-50,000-strong mountain strike corps has been welcomed by security experts who said it will bridge the gap in India's defence capabilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and possibly inhibit any military adventurism by China.

"When raised and fully operational, this strike corps would fill a crucial gap for India vis-a-vis China in the eastern sector. This will also hopefully make the current India-China negotiations on the territorial dispute more malleable," noted security expert C. Uday Bhaskar, a distinguished fellow at the Society for Policy Studies, told IANS.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Wednesday approved the raising of the new corps. This will involve expenditure of some Rs.64,000 crore - roughtly half the defence budget for 2013-14 - over a seven-year period, official sources said. The formation is expected to give India the capability to launch offensive action into the Tibet Autonomous Region in case of a Chinese offensive.

Noting that the decision was "long-overdue", Bhaskar, however, said it was not clear when funding would be made available for implementing the decision.

"It will be a very firm signal of intent that will lower the probability of China taking recourse to military superiority to alter the territorial dispute in its favour - or encourage provocative intrusions," he added.

Bhaskar said the move was a step in bridging the gap with China's military infrastructure along the LAC.

"In terms of the overall defence capabilities and related offensive component - that gap will be filled."

Bhaskar said the move does not threaten China but definitely adds credibility to India's posture.

He said that the April incursion by Chinese troops in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector in eastern Ladakh may have acted as "a trigger-pulse" for CCS decision but the proposal itself had been mooted about 10 years ago.

Bhaskar said India strengthening its defence capability along the LAC "will hopefully inhibit the Chinese PLA's adventurism.

The proposed corps, to be headquartered at Pangarh in West Bengal, would be India's first dedicated corps for offensive mountain warfare.

Lt. Gen. Kamal Davar (retd), the first head of the Defence Intelligence Agency chief, said the raising of the mountain corps will add to country's deterrent capabilities.

"It is a long-awaited, strategically apt decision which will go a long way in contributing to India's combat potential in diverse operations of war to deter our potential adversaries in the mountainous region along our vast Himayalan borders," Davar told IANS.

He said army headquarters must now speedily get down to raising various units required to make the strike corps operational.

"To achieve credible deterrence, the country has to have both strong offensive and defensive capabilities and the raising of mountain corps will go a long way in bridging the current gap," he said.

Savita Pande of School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the government's move was "much delayed" and should have come earlier.

"China is playing a double game. Skirmishes have been occurring even as talks on the border continue," she said.

She said that building defence preparedness was very significant and India had to be as careful about China as about Pakistan.

"It (the mountain corps) will send a very good signal. It is a big step. India can negotiate from a position of strength," she said.

Pande said border talks with China have not produced results so far and the move to raise a mountain corps was a "right step in the right direction."

Lt. Gen. Surinder Nath (retd), a former army vice chief, said the strike corps will strengthen India's posture along the mountains and give the forces greater flexibility.

"It will definitely lead to a stronger posture. There is need to strengthen our posture particularly in the eastern sector," Nath said.

He said April border incursion by Chinese troops may have expedited the decision to form mountain corps but the army had been asking for it for quite some time.

"It will be good morale booster for our troops," Nath said.

He said a certain amount of time will be needed to raise the new corps and put in place the required equipment and weapons systems.

Capt Praveen Davar (retd), general secretary of the Congress' ex-servicemen department, said the government's decision has strengthened security and raised the morale of the people.

"Offensive capability is the best defence," he said.
Cannot risk a parallel army in North: Basil
 Despite India’s efforts to persuade Sri Lanka to fully implement the 13th Amendment in the island’s northern province, the Rajapaksa government appears firm about not handing over some powers, including those related to police and law enforcement, to the Tamil minority.

Revealing the extent to which absence of trust remains an obstacle to ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka, Basil Rajapaksa — brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Minister for Economic Development — who visited New Delhi last week, told The Hindu that Sri Lanka would never risk a provincial government forming its own “army” through devolved police powers.

Referring to the Tamil National Army — a militant outfit raised by the beleaguered 1988 EPRLF government in the North-Eastern Province in a futile attempt to protect itself against the LTTE that had rejected the Amendment and boycotted the election — he said there was no ruling out that a future Northern provincial government would not do the same: “If [the NPC] form another army, can we afford another war now?”

He dismissed arguments that armed struggle by the Tamils was now a thing of the past, and that the 13th Amendment in any case gave the President overriding powers over the province.

As Sri Lanka moves to hold elections for the first time in the Tamil-majority Northern province, there is a raging debate in the country over the pros and cons of the 13th Amendment, including the proposed changes by the Rajapaksa government to strip it of clauses that it perceives to be inimical to national and territorial integrity; and the reported insistence by India on its full implementation.

Both Mr. Rajapakasa’s trip to New Delhi, and quickly after, India’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon’s visit to Colombo, seem to have focussed on this issue; for weeks, the Sri Lankan media has been debating it threadbare.

Sri Lanka’s other provinces, which have functioning governments, do not have their own police forces despite the constitutional provision for this. But the Tamil National Alliance believes the North should have control over law enforcement in the province.

The TNA is widely expected to win the Northern election, to be held in September, two months before the country is due to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet. The alliance has nominated a respected Colombo-based former judge of the Supreme Court, C. V. Wigneswaran, as its chief ministerial candidate.

Mr. Rajapaksa, however, questioned TNA’s choice, describing Mr.Wigneswaran as a candidate of “external forces” who did not represent the people of the North.

Well ahead of the elections, the minister, an important political figure in the Sri Lankan government, who is regarded as the most restrained and diplomatic member of the Rajapaksa clan, was already certain that a TNA government in the North would be on collision course with the Centre.

The Rajapaksa government, he said, had given the Tamil people, “everything” — roads, railways, water, electricity, schools and hospitals. With nothing left to promise, the minister said, a TNA provincial government would whip up other “emotional issues” that neither it nor the government would be able to deliver.

Giving a new twist to the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 which gave birth to the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, Mr. Rajapaksa said devolving police powers would actually amount to going against Accord.

He pointed to section 2.10 of the Accord which calls for the government to use the “same organisations and mechanisms” for law enforcement and security in the Northern and Eastern provinces as in the rest of the country, saying this meant that there could not be more than one police force for the whole country.

“It is very clear in the Accord. It says police powers have to be with one police, there is no separate mechanism. So you can’t have a separate police force in the provinces,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.

The government recently set up a parliamentary select committee to revisit the 13th amendment. Mr. Rajapaksa defended the move, saying no constitutional provision was permanent, and all over the world, it was the practice to make changes in the statute.

He declined to say if the changes would come before or after the election, calling it an ongoing process. Sometimes, he said, such processes took years.

The committee has been boycotted by the TNA and the main opposition United National Party (UNP). Moreover, dissenters on the issue within the ruling coalition, such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, are not included in the Committee.

Mr. Rajapaksa sought to explain questions about the credibility of the incomplete panel by saying it would solicit wider opinion by inviting public testimonies.

Asked if India-Sri Lanka relations had been affected as a result, Mr. Rajapaksa said both countries “understand each other’s point of view. It is Sri Lanka’s problem, and Sri Lanka must find a solution from Sri Lanka itself”.

India’s vote against Colombo two years in a row at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, he said, had “very badly hurt our relationship” but Sri Lanka had “managed it very well”, understanding that it was due to “internal pressure”.

Nor had Sri Lanka reacted adversely when Sri Lankan pilgrims and Buddhist priests were attacked in Tamil Nadu.

“So as two sovereign countries and countries who have been friends for a long time we have to understand each other. Our people have been very understanding of India. India must understand that.”

India’s Sri Lanka-playing-the China card theory was hardly reasonable, he said, pointing to a recently formed Indian CEO’s forum in Colombo, and the absence of a similar platform for Chinese businessmen in Sri Lanka.

Rather, said the Minister, it was India that was “playing for America”. As evidence, he pulled out a 2011 visit to Chennai by then U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as linked to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka.

A peaceful environment in Sri Lanka was good for India and the people of India, not just for the governments but also for the business community, including those from Tamil Nadu, Mr. Rajapaksa said.
Govt clears Army strike corps along China border

The army had sent the proposal in this regard in 2010 but it was returned by the Government asking the three Services to work together on plans to strengthen their capabilities in that region.

Boosting Army's war fighting capabilities along the Line of Actual Control, Government today given a go ahead to the creation of a corps including deployment of 50,000 additional troops along the China border at a cost of around Rs 65,000 crore.

The Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cleared the proposal in its meeting, sources told PTI.

As part of the plans, the around 1.3 million-strong Army is expected to raise the new Corps' headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal along with two divisions in Bihar and Assam and other units from Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.

Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh and IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne were also present at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for providing any possible clarifications, if any, sought by the CCS members including Defence Minister A K Antony, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

As per the plans, the IAF will also deploy its force multiplier assets such as six each mid-air refuelling tankers and C-130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft at Panagarh.

The army had sent the proposal in this regard in 2010 but it was returned by the Government asking the three Services to work together on plans to strengthen their capabilities in that region.

The Army will also get a number of new armoured and artillery divisions along with it to be deployed along the Northeast region.

The existing Strike Corps in the force include the 1, 2 and 21 Corps are all based close to the Pakistan border and are mainly armed to fight a land battle unlike the new Corps which will mainly focus on mountain warfare.

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