For those who like to know these things, the entire East Ladakh Line of Actual Control with China is under 3 Infantry Division at Leh. The division was hastily raised in 1962, and took over two brigades. One brigade, 114, was raised in 1959 when the East Ladakh crisis first erupted, with two battalions of locally raised troops, the Jammu & Kashmir Militia. Later, two regular army battalions were inducted. 70 Brigade arrived as a reinforcement after the war began. Later, 163 Brigade was pulled from the Pakistan border and given to 3 Division as division reserve. Still later, 121 (Independent ) Infantry Brigade was raised at Kargil, and put under the division’s command. At some point after 1963, the East Ladakh LAC was bifurcated between 22 Sector north of the Changchemo River, with 114 Brigade at Chushul and 70 Brigade at the southern end of the line at Demchok. 22 Sector has at least two subsectors, with Sub Sector North being responsible for DBO possibly down to the Galwan River.
· Strictly speaking, our intrepid South Asia correspondent Mandeep Bajwa should be telling you all this, as he knows much more about the independent Indian Army’s history that the Editor. The above is to Editor’s best recollection, but likely he’s made errors as he was always more concerned with orbats than history. Still is. But Mandeep is mad at Editor for some reason (he won’t explain why) and refuses to answer emails and chat requests. Please twitter him @MandeepBajwa and tell him to get with the program.
· Okay. In 1971 163 Brigade was withdrawn to Foxtrot Sector in the Punjab for the forthcoming Pakistan War, and it was not replaced because it was appraised there was no longer a China threat. In 1984, 102 (Independent) Brigade was raised at Thoise for the Siachin sector facing Pakistan, and 121 Brigade went under the newly raised 28 Division at Nimu. 102 Brigade was put under 3 Division.
· In 1999, on account of the Kargil War, 70 Brigade went to 8 Division, a formation brought in for the Kashmir Counter Insurgency from Eastern Command and stationed in Kashmir. 28 Division, minus 121 Brigade, went to Kupwara in the Kashmir Valley for the CI. So when the Kargil thing blew up, for operational reasons it was decided not to shift 28 Division back; instead 8 Division took over. Editor believes that 114 Brigade was also withdrawn for a time, leaving the China front denuded of regular troops. Anyway, 114 Brigade came back, and now, 14 years after leaving Demchok, 70 Brigade has come up. So you can see how seriously India was taking Chinese incursions. I.e., not at all seriously.
· To show how urgently India reacted to the threats in the decade 2001-2010, after opening DBO airfield not a single An-32 flight took place. Sub Sector North continued to be protected by outposts of the Indo Tibet Border Police, a high-altitude mountain warfare force raised after 1962 for patrolling the China border with Ladakh, Himachal, and Utter Pradesh. After the 1962 War, a new locally recruited force was raised, the Ladakh Scouts. These used to operate in companies, but after their steller performance in 1999 Kargil, they were given the status of a regular regiment and have, Editor thinks, six battalions. Sub Sector North is protected by 5 Ladakh Scouts, but till the other day this was not forward deployed. The rest of 22 Sector consists, as far as we know, by an infantry battalion, a Ladakh Scouts battalion, and a heavy mortar battery (12 x 120mm mortars), now for some peculiar reason called a heavy mortar regiment.
· After the Operation Trident fuss in 1986-87, India stationed a tank regiment and a mechanized battalion at Leh, under 3 Division; these became part of Corps troops when XIV Corps (Leh) was raised after the Kargil War. After the 2000s Chinese intrusions, India decided to sanction an armored brigade for Ladakh, which is now being raised, slowly. A T-90 tank regiment has gone to Leh and presumably it, plus the mechanized battalion, will form the nucleus of the new independent armored brigade, which will be under HQ XIV Corps as far as we know. India also okayed the raising of an infantry independent brigade group for the middle part of the Ladakh LAC with China. Something is happening, but we don’t know what since Mandeep is unavailable. Our assumption is that this will be based around Changchemo.
India is probably slowly building up to a new division HQ for North Ladakh, leaving 3 Division for South Ladakh. With these new raisings you cannot have a single division HQ controlling the entire 440-km or so Ladakh frontier. Is a third brigade being provided to bring 3 Division to strength? Don’t know – Mandeep will know, but he may not be free to speak, as the information is not released to the public. Sub Sector North also needs to become a separate sector, and the rest of 22 Sector put under a new brigade HQ with a third battalion added. Then 102 Brigade, DBO subsector, the new brigade in lieu of 22 Sector, and the new independent brigade could become part of a new division. But what the Indian Army needs and the bureaucrats agree to are two different things.
Last Friday we detailed Indian deployments in Ladakh, current and planned. On China’s side the situation is quite simple. The Lanzhou Military Region has two army corps, one of which has been reduced to three independent brigades. The Xinjiang Military District has an unusually large number of independent formations, giving the MR 1 armored, 3 motorized or mechanized, and 1 infantry division, plus seven infantry, mechanized or motorized, and armored brigades.
· There is no particular reason why today these seven division equivalents cannot be deployed against India in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Personally, we have doubts about the efficiency of these troops, who have spent decades in (relatively) comfortable garrisons, have no experience in mountain warfare, and except a few senior generals have never heard a shot fired in battle. But none of this matters, because China does not intend to fight India in the high mountains as in 1962.
· Primarily it counts on Indian political cowardice to forestall any aggressive action on India’s part. But should that fail, the Chinese plan to let India comes down from their mountains to the plains of the plateau, and crush them there using light and medium armor. Not a bad strategy given they lose very little if they lose their high altitude outposts, because their mountain positions are shallow.
· To reiterate, in Ladakh we had postulated that soon there will be the equivalent of two infantry divisions and an armored brigade. It may appear on the surface of it that India is outnumbered three-to-one and in a very bad situation. At least the political types and Ministry of External Affairs, who are always holding out olive branches to the Chinese, would like Indians to believe that. Impressing on the nation its weakness reduces domestic pressure to take a hard line, and lets people believe “well, we have no choice but to compromise”. Naturally, Indians who cannot remember what happened yesterday and have zero interest in tomorrow, don’t ask why after 50-years and after the creation of the world’s largest mountain warfare force this should be so. No one who operates in a western frame of logic can explain anything India and Indians do.
· In reality there is no 3-1 superiority for China because if we are talking of the Xinjiang theater, India can, without difficulty, reinforce Ladakh-Himachal-Uttarkhand with additional divisions to quickly bring itself up to parity in the theatre.
· To problem is, what then? China is not about to launch a full-scale attack on India. The Chinese are arrogant and run their mouths like sewing machines, but they are not fools. They will get nowhere with an attack because their troops will have to dismount and slog it out in the mountains, where they will be at tremendous disadvantage. India is not about to attack China because of the lack of political will.
· But, readers will object, aren’t you forgetting the highly unfavorable Indian logistical situation. So we can push additional divisions into the Ladakh-Himachal-Uttarakhand sectors, but how are we going to support an offensive? The days are gone when an Indian mountain division needed just 200-tons of supplies a day. Back in those days a Chinese division got by with 50 or less because their divisions had little artillery (in the mountains) and few vehicles. Ah yes, simpler times – Editor gets quite nostalgic. Now the division artillery alone would need 200-tons/day in the attack. Moreover, how is India going to get artillery and vehicles to the mountain passes and across down to the Tibet plateau when roads are lacking?
· And what about an even greater problem: India has almost no east-west interconnectivity because of the mountains. Every sector has deployments like the open fingers of a hand, each finger proceeding up a steep, narrow valley, but the fingers cannot switch forces between them. For the Chinese that is no problem because they are on the plateau and have an excellent east-west main trunk road, plus other roads.