(This News Article Is Originally Posted on The Print by Amrita Nayak Dutta)
The Indian Army will be raising three additional battalions — with a total of about 3,000 troops — to add to its manpower as part of its larger reorganisation plan and options to raise more are open, ThePrint has learnt.
Defence sources told ThePrint the sanction for the move was accorded around 2013 when the raising of the 17 mountain corps was granted. However, the final nod to raise the battalions was received a few weeks ago, they added.
The 17 corps was supposed to have two divisions instead of the regular three, but only the 59 Division now based in Panagarh, West Bengal, was raised, while the other was shelved due to financial constraints.
The additional three battalions will be raised as part of the Sikh, Kumaon, and Jammu and Kashmir Rifles regiments.
The Army told ThePrint the move is part of an ongoing reorganisation plan and not a fallout of the India-China face-off in Ladakh.
“It is not possible to raise all the battalions in one go, so it is phased out,” a senior Army officer told ThePrint.
The decision comes amid a protracted standoff with China at the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh and the subsequent disengagement of the troops, which is currently underway.
India’s defence establishment had the time and again said a collusive threat of a two-front conflict with China and Pakistan cannot be ruled out in the future.
“While the disengagement is under way at eastern Ladakh, India will be reviewing the border management posture and there might be a necessity to keep additional troops available in case of any contingency in the region,” a source said.
While the raising of the three battalions are to be done now, sources said options are open for more raisings in future depending on operational requirements.
Currently, there are over 400 infantry battalions in the Army.
While there have been talks of the Army working on reducing overall manpower as part of a restructuring, the ultimate aim is to enhance the tooth to tail ratio, and provisioning fighting arms with additional manpower is one of the ways, Army officers explained.
Other possible reasons
A second defence source said there would also be a requirement of additional troops in the reorganised strike corps.
ThePrint was the first to report that the Army is looking to keep two strike corps for the mountains facing China and repurposing the Mathura-based 1 corps.
Senior officers said there is always a requirement of additional infantry — both to hold ground and to carry out offensive actions, especially in the mountains.
The second source explained that the increase in battalions will also cater to better management of the peace and field profile of the soldiers.
Due to the Ladakh standoff, a large number of units, which had moved to their peace locations after field positions, had to be deployed in Ladakh immediately, leaving them with little time in peace locations.
It takes approximately six months to raise a battalion, for which the manpower is contributed by other battalions of the regiment along with new recruits.
Once raised, the battalion moves for a peace station profile where they can train, before moving to field areas for their operational deployment.
‘Rebalancing of formations in the western sectors’
Experts said the need to raise new battalions could have stemmed from the requirement of additional commitments in eastern Ladakh in future.
“In future, there could be a requirement of additional battalions permanently stationed in the area,” Lt. Gen. Rakesh Sharma (retired), former 14 corps commander and adjutant general in the Army, who had handled manpower closely, told ThePrint.
“The decision could have also been taken in view of the rebalancing of formations in the western sectors and the strike corps, especially the 17 strike corps, which was partially raised with one division,” he said.
“However, it is also essential to direct the rebalancing methodology to combat new domains of warfare, such as cyber and space,” he added.