With Beijing flexing its muscles by strengthening its military capacity in Tibet, New Delhi has given an in-principle nod to beef up defences along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control.
The Indian counter-move includes raising a new army corps at Pannagarh in West Bengal, an armoured brigade each in eastern Sikkim and eastern Ladakh and an independent infantry brigade in the Barahoti plains in Uttarakhand.
While the proposed upgradation of Indian military defences is being processed for final approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), it was given an in-principle green signal from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and defence minister AK Antony during an army presentation last month.The strategic step was taken in the light of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) capability to deploy no less than 34 divisions (nearly half-a-million troops) within a month on the LAC due to a huge infrastructure build-up (see graphic) in Tibet. To add to India's discomfort, the PLA has been conducting airborne, para-dropping and artillery firing exercises in Tibet for the past two years.
Government sources said the Pannagarh-based corps (around 15,000 combat troops) will include a Ranchi-based formation, which is currently part of the Mathura-based 1 Corps. This means that the army will raise two more divisions in the coming years to replenish the Mathura Corps and another to add to the Pannagarh formation. For this purpose, the army has earmarked 6,000 acres of land in Pannagarh, which has a functioning air force strip and is located 150 km from Kolkata.
Already a battalion and a tank regiment, which will be part of the armoured brigade, have been moved to Sikkim.
At the heart of the proposed Indian defence build-up is the threat assessment that the PLA may become assertive across the Arunachal Pradesh border in the coming years as Beijing still calls its South Tibet and has not given up its stapled visa strategy for residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu Kashmir.