No Budget, Army struggles to raise mountain strike corps

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NEW DELHI: The Army is struggling to raise the new mountain strike corps it requires for effective deterrence against China, forcing it to dip into its critical war wastage reserves (WWR) in the absence of dedicated funding, even as the government continues to be keen to slash the “flab” in the 1.18-million strong force.

The raising of the mountain strike corps (17 Corps) with 90,274 additional soldiers was approved by the UPA-2 regime in July 2013 at a cost of Rs 64,678 crore spread over eight years by 2020-2021. But with no dedicated funding, and defence PSUs and ordnance factories yet to really step up indigenous production, the Army is being forced to equip the new units being gradually raised for the 17 Corps from its already-depleted WWR. Out of the 250 headquarters/units approved for raising, around 90 have been raised till now.

The Army firmly believes there is no alternative to “boots on the ground” given its lack of cutting-edge military technology in several arenas. The force, after all, has to guard two long, treacherous borders with China and Pakistan as well as conduct counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and northeast.

“China is going in for a 300,000 troop cut in the 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army by 2017 after 30 years of a major technological upgrade. We are nowhere near that stage,” said a senior officer. But defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s reiteration that the Army needs to cut down its non-operational manpower in the face of escalating wage and pension bills has again set the cat among the pigeons.

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