New Delhi: The Army has beefed up the Leh-based 14 Corps, in charge of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, with additional troop formation to counter any possible Chinese belligerence in winters, ThePrint has learnt.
The changes have been done as part of the rebalance from the Western borders to those with China, sources in the defence and security establishment said.
While traditionally, the 14 Corps, also known as the Fire and Fury Corps, had just the 3 Division to take care of the LAC, sources said as per the new Order of Battle (ORBAT), an additional formation of troops has been permanently assigned to the 14 Corps.
While sources refused to get into the exact formation of additional troops that has been assigned, they said the numbers are significant and adds to the overall operational capability.
This means that besides the 3 Division, the Eastern Ladakh will now be secured by additional troops on a permanent basis.
The Army has made key changes to its ORBAT to tackle the threat from China and has focused on building up both punitive and deterrence capability at the LAC.
“Additional troops will stay put in winters to address the possible PLA belligerence in winters,” a source said, adding the deployment is part of the new ORBAT.
30,000 troops remain operationally deployed in eastern Ladakh
As reported by ThePrint earlier, several units from Jammu and Kashmir were also pumped into Ladakh last year, besides others.
For example, following the Galwan clash last year, a Rashtriya Rifles (RR) sector was moved to the Galwan Valley area while units under Uniform Force, a formation in Jammu and Kashmir, were also brought in.
Sources explained that the RR troops were brought in as a back-up because, at that time, the focus was on pushing in large numbers of troops since India was not sure where the conflict was headed.
Sources said India has done more than just “mirror deployment” — a term used in the military as matching the deployment of enemy strength.
At present, there are about 30,000 troops on either side in Eastern Ladakh, sources said, adding that the overall additional deployment along the LAC continues to stand at around 50,000-60,000 soldiers by both India and China.
These numbers do not take into account the Reserve formations that are maintained to scale up deployment when needed.
“In the initial few months since May last year, the focus was on ramping up our presence since one never knew where the situation was headed. The Chinese were also forced to carry out mirror deployment as India beefed up. Rejig of troops have taken place on both sides since then,” a second source said.
Talking about the additional troop presence, a third source explained, “It has been done considering the various operational necessities envisaged. Not all troops deployed are meant for the forward deployment all the time. Some would be in the front defending, some would be in reserve and some would be in standby to quickly mount any kind of operation,” a third source said.
Besides the additional permanent deployment of troops, specialised elements of the rebalanced 1 Strike Corps have also conducted reorientation training and familiarisation in Ladakh.
Elements from the Strike Corps are also expected to carry out deployment in Ladakh during the winters as part of their reorientation training.
Focus remains on technology, coordinated surveillance
Sources said the focus is on deployment of technology and synchronised surveillance along the LAC. ThePrint had earlier reported that the Indian Army has sharpened its focus on technology rather than increased boots on the ground.
The Army has also taken steps on having advance knowledge about enemy movement. This includes setting up of integrated Aviation Brigades focused on the LAC.
It has beefed up its fire power with the induction of a range of systems including M-777 light weight howitzers, Bofors and the K 9 Vajra gun among others, and has pumped in additional armoured columns besides a number of key missile systems.
The IAF has also remained focused on the LAC and has carried out its own deployment in a coordinated manner.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)