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Chinese troops participated in the Pakistan Army Day parade for the first time this year
Chinese troops participated in the Pakistan Army Day parade for the first time this year

India to create one more infantry division as Pakistan, China raise their defence cooperation

Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire twice last week by firing from automatic weapons along the LoC in Bhimbher Gali and Balakote sectors of Jammu and Kashmir, drawing retaliation from the Indian Army. “There was unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan Army in Bhimbher Gali and Balakote sectors from 0600 hours to 0645 hours using 2 inch mortars and automatic weapons”, a defence spokesperson said on Sunday. Army troops gave a befitting reply, the spokesperson said.

This was the fifth ceasefire violation along the LoC in Poonch-Rajouri belt in the past 15 days. On March 13, there was unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan Army in Poonch sector by using 82 mm mortars and automatic weapons. On March 12, Pakistani troops had resorted to ceasefire violation by firing 82 mm mortars in Krishnagati sector along LoC in Pooch district.

An Army jawan was killed on March 9 when Pakistani soldiers initiated indiscriminate and unprovoked firing on Indian Army posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector.

This has made India wary.

The armed forces should be prepared for conventional warfare along the country’s borders and advanced technology for military must be made available on a fast track mode, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Thursday.

He said that adequate focus must be given to ensure that “trial procedure” for procurement of military systems do not linger on for too long. Without naming any country, Rawat said India will continue to face conventional or non-traditional forms of warfare and the armed forces will have to be ready to deal with any such challenge.

“The armed forces will have to remain prepared for conventional warfare along our borders,” the army chief said while addressing a two-day conference on military communication. Addressing the gathering, minister of state for Defence Subhash Bhamre said the government was committed to fulfil requirements of the armed forces and that information technology can act as a force multiplier.

Rawat also stressed on the need to adopt the latest technologies for the armed forces without any delay so that it does not become obsolete after induction.

We will have to identify the correct type of technology for the armed forces and ensure that our trial procedure do not linger on for long, he said. Communication technology for the armed forces must be simple, light-weight and easy to maintain as they will be required for wars on the borders, he said adding the technology must work in extreme weather conditions.

Referring to social media, the army chief said the “adversaries” appeared to be taking advantage of it. He also talked about the need for having proper encryption mechanism, both for voice and data, for communication network for the armed forces.

Speaking on the occasion, CII’s Chandrajit Banerjee pitched for early notification of the strategic partnership for defence production between the government and the defence industry.

Meanwhile, a grand annual military parade marking Pakistan’s Republic Day has for the first time involved Chinese troops, underscoring Beijing’s increasingly strong partnership with Islamabad.

The Pakistan military displayed its conventional and nuclear-capable weapons at Thursday’s parade in the capital, where security was extremely tight. Authorities blocked cellular phone networks to deter militants, who have often used mobile phone signals to trigger bombs.

Pakistan Day commemorates March 23, 1940, when a resolution was passed to demand the establishment of a separate homeland for Muslims in the then British colony of India. Addressing the nationally televised event, President Mamnoon Hussain thanked China for sending a 90-member contingent of the People’s Liberation Army to the parade, saying the Chinese army has never participated in such an event in any other country.

In addition to deep defense ties, Beijing is investing more than $50 billion to help build infrastructure projects in Pakistan with an aim to link China to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Hussain said the cooperation under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor underscored strong economic partnership between the two countries and opened doors of development not only for Pakistan, but for the whole region.

Thursday’s parade showcased the Nasr missile, with a 60 kilometer range. It is capable of carrying Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons. Also featured was the nuclear-capable ballistic Shaheen-III missile with a range of up to 2,750 kilometers that experts say can hit anywhere in rival India.

President Hussain, however, reiterated that Pakistan’s nuclear capacities are meant to ensure regional peace and stability. He said Islamabad is ready for talks with New Delhi on all issues, including Kashmir, but accused India of violating a cease-fire in the divided Himalayan region.

Now, with an eye on the massive restructuring of the Chinese military, the Indian army is moving to raise a second infantry division for its mountain strike corps on the northern border, sources said.

India is in the process of raising a new division along the Chinese border
India is in the process of raising a new division along the Chinese border

The raising of the new, 72 Infantry Division will start at Pathankot within a few months, they said. “Preliminary action to set the ball rolling for the second division has already started. The army was told to complete the raising of the mountain strike corps by financial year 2017-18. It will be completed on schedule. Complete operationalisation will take some more time,” said a senior army official.

The 15,000-strong division is expected be fully operational in two-three years, said sources, adding that the organisational structure and manpower were in place, and equipment and stores would follow. The other infantry division for the mountain strike corps — 59 Infantry Division — has been raised and will be fully operational this year.

The mountain strike corps, designated as 17 Corps, is meant for the northern border and is headquartered at Panagarh in Bengal. It was approved by the government in 2013 with a proposed strength of 80,000 soldiers at a cost of Rs 64,000 crore to be spent over a seven-year period. However, sources said, there has been a squeeze on release of funds since, raising questions about shortfall in ammunition and equipment for units already raised.

“The shortfall was mainly in ammunition, which has been made up by and large by invoking emergency financial provisions. As far as the artillery, air defence and aviation assets are concerned, we will get them as part of the modernisation plans,” said the official.

Sources said the army is “deeply concerned” about the recent changes in the command and control structure of China’s People Liberation Army, and is exploring ways to counter that threat. But military officials insisted that 17 Corps was not a “China Strike Corps”.

“We are moving fast from a threat-based to a capability-based army. The mountain strike corps is a part of that change and can be used in any mountainous region, which means all the northern borders. It would augment our posture along the borders, stretching from Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Ladakh in the northwest,” said the official.