India has started ramping up military defences in the Ladakh sector of Jammu and Kashmir that faces China, especially after Beijing has ringed the area with at least six airfields, fighter aircraft, all terrain vehicles and special forces that are backed by top-class metalled roads right up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
New Delhi will be moving an armoured brigade — some 150 T-72 tanks — to Ladakh and also have Smerch multi-barrel rocket launch units placed at key locations. These are capable of hitting targets 70-80 kms away.
An armoured regiment — 46 tanks — had moved in last year to join the Kiari-based 70 Brigade and is now located at a forward sector, 20 km inside the LAC, where India suffered a setback in the 1962 conflict with China. This is separate from the upcoming Armoured Brigade that will be directly controlled by the Leh-based 14 Corps. Its three Regiments, comprising 46 tanks each, will be co-located with existing infantry and artillery regiments of the Indian Army. Meaning an armoured component will be available from the northern most tip, that is the base of the Karokaram pass at Daulat Baig Oldie, to the south eastern extreme of Demchok and Chumar, sources said. Adding up the numbers would mean that over the next 18 months India would have stationed 200 of the T-72 tanks in Ladakh and all night-sight equipped.
Ladakh being a plateau is ideal tank country. The only effort is in bringing the tanks through the narrow and high Himlayan passes on the Srinagar-Leh route or the Manali-Leh route.
The existing numbers of tanks are just not enough in case of an attack, especially after the Indian side was alerted of threat by way of a specialised exercise by the Chinese to have rapid movement across Tibet and Xinjiang, both abutting Ladakh. The Lanzhou Military Area Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China carried out rapid movement exercises in 2012. The first tank regiment moved to Ladakh in 2013.
New Delhi’s fears got an official stamp in March 2013 when the State Council of China published a white paper titled “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces” that talked about these rapid movements. It claimed the PLA extensively practised the move to concentrate troops. “Trans-military area command movements have been carried out. In 2012, the Chengdu MAC and Lanzhou MAC carried out the exercise.” Lanzhou and Chengdu — are dedicated to India. The Lanzhou MAC is tasked for J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, while the Chengdu MAC is for Chinese frontiers facing Nepal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. China in total has seven MACs.
China has ringed J&K with new airfields. The Ngari Gunsa airbase in Tibet has come up just 200 km east of Demchok in India. North of J&K, airbases at Kashgar, Yarkand, Hotan and Qeimo (Cherchen) in Xinjiang can be used to launch an attack.
More tanks and artillery
- New Delhi will be moving an armoured brigade, nearly 150 T-72 tanks, to Ladakh and also have Smerch multi-barrel rocket launch units placed at key locations
- An armoured regiment, 46 tanks, had moved in last year to join the Kiari-based 70 Brigade and is now located at a forward sector, 20 km inside the Line of Actual Control
- Three Regiments, comprising 46 tanks each, of Armoured Brigade will be co-located with existing infantry and artillery regiments of the Indian Army