As the stalemate continues on the icy heights of the Himalayas between Indian and Chinese militaries, both sides are going ahead with plans of deploying over 60,000 troops on the frontiers for a second successive winter in eastern Ladakh.
While China has changed its local commanders on the western theatre command—overseeing the Line of Actual Control (LAC)—the Indian Army is also rebalancing its force on the Indo-China border.
Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane recently stated that the build-up and construction of infrastructure by the Chinese on their side meant they were there to stay.
“If they are here to stay, we are here to stay, too,” said Naravane.
The move is also a step towards upcoming theatre commands in the Indian military. While India has eight commands (Army and IAF) focusing on the China front, it has just one unified command—the western theatre command—tasked with guarding its border with India.
The Indian military functions under 17 single-service commands now.
The Indian Army's Lucknow-based Central Command has been given control over the additional brigades to strengthen its position on the LAC in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
While the Kolkata-based Eastern Command will look after the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, Ladakh is the responsibility of the Northern Command.
The Dehradun-based division, which is a strike force, has been put under the Central Command instead of its Western Command.
Similarly, another infantry brigade of over 5,000 troops is also taken away from the Western Command and handed over to the Central Command.
It is clarified the move is only administrative control of the formations and deployment of additional troops is not being done.
India’s military focus has been largely Pakistan-centric. Of the 14 Army corps, just four-and-a-half faced China.
Similarly, just 12 of the Army’s 38 divisions faced China; 25 were on the India-Pakistan border and one division was a reserve under Army headquarters.
The Army has four strike corps—the Mathura-based I Corps, the Ambala-based II Corps, the Bhopal-based XXI Corps and the partially-raised XVII Corps. Only the XVII Corps focuses on China.
But, due to the ongoing military face-off in Ladakh, the Sena Bhawan in New Delhi has carried out the rebalancing to focus more on China.
The I Corps will now be an offensive formation for eastern Ladakh to support the Leh-based XIV Corps. The Allahabad-based 4 Division and the Bareilly-headquartered 6 Mountain Division will form the core of the I Corps.
In case of aggression, the Hisar-based 33 Armoured Division could also be moved to Ladakh. The Palampur-based 39 Division will be a reserve force and the Dehradun-based 14 Division will be deployed along the Chinese border in Uttarakhand.
The XVII Corps, which was earlier mandated to cover the entire northern border, will be restricted to Sikkim and the northeast. For the eastern sector, the Kolkata-based Eastern Command has three corps—IV, III and XXXIII—based in Tezpur, Dimapur and Siliguri, respectively.