NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has re-prioritised its next five year plan (2018-2023) to meet its operational requirements along India’s frontier with China following the Dokalam standoff, said top army officers.
The emphasis will be on infrastructure development, including better roads and logistics, and capability enhancement, with more infantry weapons and night fighting, intelligence and surveillance equipment, senior army officials told ET on condition of anonymity.
Now, priority will be given to those schemes which will enhance the army’s capabilities along the frontier—the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh and the International Boundary (IB) in east Sikkim. This has been done based on the experience gained from the Dokalam standoff, said army sources. In November 2017, the army brass decided that the 13th five-year plan, called Services Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP), for 2018-2023 would be reprioritised in view of the lessons learnt from the Dokalam standoff, officials said. Each defence service has an SCAP for future modernisation based on emerging threats.
India and China engaged in a military standoff from June 16 to August 28 last year after the Indian Army moved into Dokalam to stop the Chinese troops from building a road in the territory claimed by both India’s ally Bhutan and China. The standoff underscored that the Indian Army could not mobilise its artillery and additional ammunition near the site swiftly, due to lack of adequate road infrastructure, officials said.
“The standoff gave a greater push to our focus on China. It is not that the focus was not there earlier, but greater efforts are now being made militarily for our northern borders (LAC and IB),” an official said. This marks a shift from India’s policy until the early 2000s, when the country had a Pakistan-centric military. With Pakistan gradually receding as a military threat, India is seeking to bridge the gap with China’s growing military capabilities.
The budget outlay for the 13th plan is ₹1 lakh crore (₹20,000 crore per year). “But for the army to meet its requirements the defence budget will have to reach up to 3% of the GDP. But this is unlikely to happen and is expected to be 1.6% of the GDP,” the official said.
Nonetheless, reprioritisation of the five-year plan will lead to an emphasis on infrastructure enhancement such as better roads, fuel storage facilities and troop accommodation, among other measures aimed at modernisation of the force, officials said.
Roads are the most important requirement in mountainous areas . ET had earlier reported that the construction of the 73 strategic India-China Border Roads (ICBR) had been fast-tracked post the standoff to ensure quick mobilisation of troops.
As an alternative to roads, India is also constructing 17 tunnels along the LAC to drastically reduce the distance to it and to ensure for all-weather connectivity. Besides, officials said, India will focus on strengthening its railway network and building advanced landing grounds and helipads.
All this will not only ensure faster mobility for troops stationed near the LAC but also allow the army’s dual task formations (DTFs) to move from one theatre of war to another. Experts said India lacks sufficient dedicated airlift resources for the DTFs.
India has also stepped up its efforts to procure weapons for deployment along the frontier with China. These include procurement of 145 Ultralight Howitzers, and the Future Ready Combat Vehicles which is a replacement for the army’s T-72 tanks and will be deployed along the LAC.
The army needs more surveillance equipment such as drones and electronic warfare resources, according to officials, who said India also needs more troops along the frontier with China.
The army’s primary offensive formation against China, the Mountain Strike Corps, was started in 2013 and was to be completed by 2021. But it is expected to take another four to eight years for completion, owing possibly to paucity of funds, experts said. Along with this corps, one of the army’s three strike corps which are poised against Pakistan can be turned into a DTF against China, they said.
Source : timesofindia