Eye on China, is India adding muscle on East?
2 Jul 2009, 0325 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit, TNN
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NEW DELHI: India may publicly be very cautious about not ruffling China's prickly feathers but is slowly taking some steps to counter the stark
military asymmetry with its much larger neighbour. In the latest such move, the Army now wants a dedicated artillery division for the eastern front.
After getting the Cabinet Committee on Security's approval to raise two new infantry mountain divisions (with around 15,000 combat soldiers each) and an artillery brigade last year, the Army is now pushing the case for the new artillery division, say defence ministry sources.
The proposed artillery division, under the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command, will have three brigades -- two of 155mm howitzers and one of the Russian `Smerch' and indigenous `Pinaka' multiple-launch rocket systems.
As earlier reported by TOI, IAF has already begun to base its most potent Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets at Tezpur, with other airbases in the northeast like Chabua next on the roadmap, apart from building new helipads in Arunachal Pradesh.
Even as the Navy tries to counter China's strategic moves in the Indian Ocean Region, India is progressively reactivating old ALGs (advanced landing grounds) like Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche, Chushul and Nyama in Ladakh after decades of them lying largely unused.
Then, of course, India is also set to conduct another test of the 3,500-km range Agni-III ballistic missile this month, even as work is in progress for the maiden test of the 5,000-km Agni-V missile by mid-2010.
"Though China is way ahead in military capabilities, all we want is a credible active deterrence posture against it. But again, the progress of our various measures to counter Chinese moves, like the huge build-up of military infrastructure in Tibet and south China, remains quite sluggish," said a top official.
Only 10 of the 73 roads earmarked for construction along the Sino-Indian border, for instance, have been built till now. This when the 2.5-million People's Liberation Army can move two divisions to the border within a month.
The importance of the proposed artillery division can be gauged from the fact that India has only two such formations till now. Both are primarily tasked for the western front with Pakistan, one under the Chandimandir-based Western Command and the other under Pune-based Southern Command.
All Army divisions and corps, including those in the eastern sector, have their own integral artillery brigades. But a dedicated artillery division will give the Eastern Army commander a `potent' force with long-range, high-volume firepower, having as it will guns and rocket systems, missiles and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
The Army's Rs 15,000 crore artillery modernisation programme continues to be hampered by a series of kickback scandals. The project to procure 140 ultra-light howitzers for Rs 2,900 crore, for instance, needs to get going since it will ensure artillery can be deployed in forward, inaccessible areas at short notice with the help of helicopters.
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