Army plans to strengthen posture against China along the LAC in central sector

army plans to strengthen posture against china along the lac in central sector

Indian Army trucks move towards Ladakh amid LAC border tension at Manali-Leh highway.

The Indian Army plans to strengthen its posture against China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the central sector, stretching 545 km across Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, by converting a Bareilly-headquartered administrative formation into a corps headquarters with war fighting functions, officials aware of the matter said on Tuesday.

The Uttar Bharat (UB) Area is expected to be turned into a corps headquarters responsible for guarding the central sector, which is currently considered to be the least disputed stretch of the contested border between India and China, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The only dispute in this sector is at Barahoti in Uttarakhand.

The new formation, 18 Corps, may be based at Dehradun, HT has learnt.

UB Area has always had some operational responsibilities along LAC in the central sector, but being a largely administrative headquarters, it was not organised for war fighting functions, said military affairs expert and former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).

“With additional troops now being deployed for the central sector, it is a good move to convert UB Area into a corps HQ. This will bring in greater operational efficiency in dealing with an unsettled LAC, which is becoming increasingly contested.” Hooda said.

The army is reorienting its focus in the central sector at a time when India and China have been locked in a dragging military standoff along LAC in Ladakh for almost four years, and a full resolution of the border crisis through ongoing negotiations still appears elusive.

UB Area, which comes under the Lucknow-based Central Command, has been “progressively combatised” during the last seven to eight years to enhance the army’s operational readiness, and the next logical step is to convert it into a corps headquarters, said one of the officials cited above.

Till 2016, UB Area had only a solitary independent brigade under it — the Joshimath-headquartered 9 (Independent) Mountain Brigade, the army’s oldest. The number has now gone up to three, including the Pithoragarh-based 119 (Independent) Infantry Brigade and the Pooh-based 136 (Independent) Infantry Brigade, said a second official. Independent brigades are much bigger than regular brigades and are almost the same size as army divisions.

The Dehradun-based 14 Infantry Division, which currently comes directly under the Central Command, will be put under the new corps once the restructuring of UB Area is completed, bringing all fighting formations of the command under the new corps commander, said a third official. The three brigades under the 14 Division are headquartered at Kasauli, Dehradun and Lucknow.

The 3,488-km LAC is divided into three sectors, including western (Ladakh) and eastern (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh), with the former emerging as the one that is most prone to face-offs between the Indian and Chinese armies followed by the latter. While eastern Ladakh has been the focus of the current border tensions with China, the Indian Army is in a high state of readiness all along LAC. Face-offs have been reported in the east after the Ladakh border row erupted.

Indian and Chinese senior military commanders concluded the 20th round of talks to ease tensions in eastern Ladakh on October 9-10, 2023. They agreed to continue the military dialogue and maintain peace, but there was no immediate breakthrough.

Despite four rounds of disengagement from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Gogra (PP-17A) and Hot Springs (PP-15), the Indian and Chinese armies still have tens of thousands of troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.

In January, army chief General Manoh Pande said the situation along LAC in the Ladakh sector was “stable, yet sensitive.” He said the army’s operational preparedness was high, and its deployments “robust and balanced,” adding that talks at the military and diplomatic levels were on to resolve the outstanding issues along LAC.

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