September 17, 2012
The army’s defences on the China border will get a major offensive boost with the impending deployment of two tank brigades, one each in Ladakh and north-east India. This is the first time that India will deploy armoured formations on the China border. Such formations, equipped with main battle tanks and BMP-II infantry combat vehicles, are traditionally used for striking into enemy territory.
Authoritative MoD (Ministry of Defence) sources tell Business Standard that the plan, cleared by the MoD, involves raising six new armoured regiments, equipped with 348 tanks (58 tanks per regiment, including reserves). In addition, three mechanised infantry battalions will be raised, amounting to about 180 BMP-IIs.
The decision to deploy tanks to beef up India’s light, mountain infantry divisions was taken due to doctrinal changes in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA has deployed armoured and motorised formations in both their military regions across the Line of Actual Control, as the de facto Sino-Indian border is called. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Lanzhou Military Region, which faces Ladakh, has 220,000 PLA troops, including an armoured division and two motorised infantry divisions (a division has three brigades). The Chengdu Military Region, opposite India’s north-eastern states, has some 180,000 PLA troops, including two armoured brigades and four motorised infantry divisions.