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India plans to strengthen mountain warfare machinery

By N C Bipindra in New Delhi
June 13, 2008 13:52 IST
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In a move that could raise the hackles of neighbouring Pakistan and China, India will soon raise two new division-sized army formations to give more teeth to its mountain warfare machinery.

The Defence Ministry's proposal for raising of the two mountain divisions was approved recently by the Cabinet Committee on Security, ministry sources said.

The proposed mountain divisions will further enhance the tactical strength of the Indian army in its strategically important areas along the borders facing its traditional rivals -- Pakistan and China.

Each division - with a personnel strength of 10,000 to 13,000 troops - has a minimum of three brigades with a personnel strength of about 3,000 to 4,500 men each.

With options open to deploy on the mountainous terrains anywhere along the borders with the two neighbouring countries, the two new divisions could be raised in states from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.

The Army already has 10 Divisions dedicated to mountain warfare and another infantry division earmarked for high altitude operations.

"The two new formations will be raised in a two-phased plan in about five years," the sources said.

Under the first phase, which will be implemented in two years, the two new divisions headquarters along with a brigade each, would come up, including the headquarters' support elements such as signals, provost, and intelligence units.

Implementation of the second phase would take another two to three years and during that period the complete division would be ready for operation.

At the end of the five years for raising the new formations, the two divisions would also have its air elements functional.

The air assets would include helicopter gunships and attack helicopters to provide the two divisions capabilities to carry out manoeuvres for countering the terrain impediments.

"The gunships and attack choppers will be necessary for providing the two formations fire power in a mountain terrain, as the army will not be in a position to deploy tanks and armoured vehicles," sources said.

The fire power in the third dimension (air) was required due to difficulties the army would face in using artillery guns also in an operation on a mountainous terrain.

"The air assets are an integral part of any mountain division to provide the fighting ground troops logistics and fire support," the sources said.

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N C Bipindra in New Delhi
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