The UPA government has sent back the army's 2011 proposal for raising a new mountain strike corps at Pannagarh in West Bengal to the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) this month in order to bring the navy and air force on board and broad base its military capability against China.
The three armed forces chiefs will deliberate on the plan in their next meeting after adding hardware requirements of the air force and navy too in a bid to synergise future operations.
Top official sources said once the three chiefs decide on their specific individual requirements to strengthen the northern borders and deployment in the Indian Ocean, the new proposal will be sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security after due whetting of the defence ministry.
As first reported by HT last August, the army had moved an ambitious proposal to raise a strike corps with two divisions (total of 60,000 men) against China at Pannagarh, position two armoured regiments at Nathu La in Sikkim and Fukche in Ladakh respectively, and deploy an additional infantry brigade to Barahoti plains in Uttarakhand. After being cleared by the defence ministry last year, the proposal was sent to the finance ministry, followed by the CCS, for approval.
The decision to send back the COSC plan came after the country's security managers felt all three services needed to muscle up against the rising military capability of the northern neighbour, and not just the army. The move also came after the navy and air force raised concerns over preferential treatment to army modernisation by the government.
"We have asked the three chiefs to discuss among themselves their hardware requirements within the designated modernisation budget, and come up with a wholesome proposal," said a senior official.
Apart from the army, the air force and navy will also be sending proposals to the COSC before the final view is taken on what new air and naval assets, including helicopters for advance landing grounds and warships for longer reach into Indian Ocean, will be required.
However, given the speed at which China is building its military capacities, defence minister AK Antony has said if the tri-service proposal is not brought to the table soon, the ministry will intervene to allocate military resources within the budget.