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Indian Army to strengthen middle sector of HP, Uttarakhand along China border by raising a corps

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Indian Army to strengthen middle sector of HP, Uttarakhand along China border by raising a corps

B.D. Kasniyal

Pithoragarh, Feb 21

To check the Chinese threat along Line of Actual Control (LAC) and to plug the gaps, the Indian army has planned to set up a new corps to look after the 545 kilometer long northern border of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand with China.

The area known as Uttar Bharat (UB) Area with headquarters at Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh would 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. It has been decided to make Bareilly-headquartered administrative formation into a corps headquarters with war fighting functions. The only dispute in this sector is at Barahoti in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.

Till recently, 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.

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. The three brigades under the 14 Division are headquartered at Kasauli, Dehradun and Lucknow. The new formation, 18 Corps, is reportedly to be based at Dehradun.

A combatised area HQ has fighting elements, while a traditional corps has additional artillery brigades, engineering brigades and other logistics components.

he newly reconstituted corps will have all the troops and equipment from other arms and services such as artillery, engineers and aviation, among others, under its direct command to successfully conduct operations in the central sector. The Uttar Bharat 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. Army is focusing in the central sector at a time when India and China have been engaged in a standoff along LAC in Ladakh for almost four years.

The 3,488-km LAC on China border is divided into three sectors, including western (Ladakh) under Northern command and eastern (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) under Eastern Command. The Ladhakh sector has seen maximum stand-offs between the armies of the two Asian neighbours in the past few years followed by skirmishes reported in the eastern sector. 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. 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.

” This is welcome move and will also be able to check possible threat to the security of country from China as well as from Nepal side as Nepal has also claimed Indian territories at Lipulekh and Limpiadhura and included these Indian territories of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiadhura on May 18 ,2020 after claiming these territories under influence of China,” said Lt.Gen. Mohan Bhadrai (retired).

“Barahoti is only region which is disputed in this central sector that till date is considered least disputed sector along LAC. The Chinese has linked Tungjun La, near Barahoti, the threat from across the border has increased,” said the retired officer.

He was of the opinion that since Chinese had already taken 38000 sq km of Indian territories in western sector and claimed 90000 sq km of Indian territory in eastern sector, the threat in the central sector has also increased at Barahoti and Lipulekh pass region after Nepal has come in proximity with Chinese. “China has equipped itself to bring it’s troops up to Limpiadhura region in last 10 years,” said Bhandari.

UB area had operational responsibility of 545 km long mid sector at LAC but being only as administrative headquarter, it was not able to organise as war fighting functions.

Lt. Gen. Mohan Bhandari (retired) claimed that that Barahoti (Chamoli district) had come into Chinese plans due to a slight mistake by the Indians in the past of informing them about arrival of Tibetan shepherds with their herds in Indian territory. “ The Chinese opened a tax post in that area and this mistake of ours made Chinese made that area disputable,” claimed Bhandari.

After the conversion of UB area as corps headquarter, Indian army would have sufficient manpower besides artillery, aviation and wherewithal to operate as the need arises,” said the retired Army officer.

Barahoti, border with China in mid-sector was encroached by Chinese in 1954 for the first time and repeat their action several times particularly during summer months. In the year 2021, more than 100 Chinese soldiers encroached into Barahoti and returned after destroying a bridge inside Indian territory.”Barahoti has repeatedly been encroached by Chinese even after that,” said Lt. Gen. Mohan Bhandari (retired).

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