In the next few weeks, the Indian army’s Mountain Strike Corps will go into ‘battle’ across its intended area of deployment—the Himalayas. In the first exercise since its raising in 2014, the Ranchi-based 17 Corps will launch three Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs)—brigade-sized formations backed by medium artillery, helicopters, tanks and armoured personnel carriers in simulated thrusts across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The manoeuvres will be far away from the currently taut and violent Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, but not too distant from Doklam, where India and China ended a 72-day military stand-off in 2017.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat and his generals will watch the exercise very carefully because it validates several concepts they have worked on for months. The chief is betting big on IBGs—lean mobile formations consisting of 5,000 soldiers, backed by artillery and armour—to become the army’s force of the future. It is the biggest restructuring of a force that has continued almost without any reorganisation since Independence.
Senior army officials say the exercise, the first of its kind in the northern theatre, respects the April 2005 protocol with China, which urges both sides to ‘avoid holding large-scale military exercises involving more than one division (approximately 15,000 troops) in close proximity to the LAC’.
The exercise, which is yet to be given a name—arm