In a belated recognition of the fact that China is fast emerging as a bigger threat than Pakistan on India’s borders, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has given a go-ahead to the creation of a mountain strike corps along the China border. This only partially meets the Indian Army’s proposals put forward several years ago to beef up its combat readiness to take on China in case of an attack. CCS is believed to have not discussed other proposals of the Army for two independent infantry brigades and two independent armoured brigades to plug its operational gaps along the entire Line of Actual Control (LAC). Financial considerations are touted as reasons for the delay. Given the fact China is already far ahead of India in its war preparedness and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has stepped up provocative activities along the LAC, this could be detrimental to the nation’s security.
India cannot afford to believe in the Chinese leadership’s latest assertion that its recent standoff in Ladakh’s Depsang Valley was “accidental and not deliberately staged”. As the subsequent incursion in the Chumar sector of Ladakh, in which PLA troops smashed Indian bunkers installed at the Indian border post, show, professions of peace by Chinese foreign policy mandarins are rarely matched by action of its troops on the ground. New Delhi will do well to heed the classic advice to nations: The best way to preserve peace is to be prepared for war.
China has at least five fully operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000 km of roads along the Indian border. This would allow China to move over 30 divisions — each with over 15,000 soldiers — to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there. India must step up building of strategic road links to the border and creation of a formidable military capability that can match up with the Chinese side to make up for lost time. It cannot afford to forget the lessons of 1962.