The army’s 2007 plan to set up a mountain strike corps for Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern sector is not only far from being shelved, the unit will also get more muscle in the form of attack helicopters to boost defence preparedness along the China border.
The corps will have 50,000 soldiers with high-altitude warfare skills as well as air-defence weaponry and artillery. Despite the air force’s opposition, the government has decided to give the army control of the attack helicopters.
“We have a letter from the defence ministry and have been given the attack helicopters,” army chief Gen Bikram Singh said on Friday. The army hopes to induct Apache helicopters. It feels these will be easier to buy as the air force is procuring them.
The finance ministry is learnt to have reservations about the corps because of the Rs 65,000-crore bill.
But Gen Singh refuted reports that the idea had been buried. "Our proposal is being vetted and validated. There have been some observations, which are being looked into. The proposal is being resubmitted and I am confident it will soon get approved," the army chief, who had commanded an infantry battalion in the northeast, told The Week magazine.
According to the army, inducting attack helicopters is an "inescapable operational necessity" as the infrastructure along the border with China is "far from satisfactory". A strike corps along the Arunachal border will give the army greater offensive and counter-offensive capabilities.
After the 1962 war, India had been hesitant about any 'offensive' deployment in the eastern sector as it could have prompted China to react 'provocatively'.