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South Asia Security Monitor - No. 308

Edited by Jeff M. Smith and Amanda Sawit
November 19, 2012

Top Indian defense and political leaders are reconsidering a plan to raise a mountain strike corps on the border between India and Tibet, a proposal that was first floated by the government in 2010 and received in-principle clearance in 2011. Originally, the plan called for the recruitment of over 80,000 personnel for an offensive formation to counter China’s military and infrastructure growth across the border. (India currently has three strike corps – all dedicated to potential operations against Pakistan).

The proposal was sent back to the Defense Ministry for revisions, following cost concerns and inconsistencies requests from the Army and Air Force. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office reportedly voiced concerns about the impact of a new strike corps on India’s fragile relations with China. The Chiefs of Staff Committee has crafted a new proposal and Army Chief General Bikram Singh plans to present the proposal to the country’s top national security body – the Cabinet Committee on Security – sometime in November. Since 2009, India has added two new mountain divisions to forces stationed along its northeastern border with China. (Rediff, November 7 2012)

Recent trips to Pakistan by senior officials from the Punjab and Bihar highlight the expanding diplomatic reach of India’s increasingly powerful regional leadership. Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, Singh Badal, returned from a four-day trip to Lahore last week, claiming that a “historic moment in the relations between the two Punjabs is at hand.” That same week, a 12-member delegation headed by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar received a warm welcome in Karachi for a weeklong goodwill visit. Both leaders hail from parties allied to the BJP, which has traditionally taken a harder line with Pakistan. (The Indian Express, November 12 2012; The Times of India, November 10 2012)

Pakistan’s bi-annual International Defense Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), held in mid-November after a 4-year hiatus, drew strong interest from Chinese and Turkish defense companies, which each booked their own hall for the event. Turkish companies have been heavily involved in upgrading the Pakistani military in recent years, supplying Islamabad with patrol and interception vessels and securing orders for its Genesis combat management system to be applied to Pakistan’s Perry-class frigate. Turkish companies have also upgraded Pakistan’s F-16 fleet and are hoping to sell Pakistan T-129 attack helicopters to replace its aging Cobras. For its part, Chinese company CSTC reportedly secured an order for four more F-22pP Zufiquar-class frigates, in addition to the four that have already been built for Pakistan. Another Chinese company, the Poly Group Corporation, reportedly secured an order for an undisclosed number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. (Defense News, November 10 2012)

Ismail Khan, the governor of Heart province and one of the most powerful mujahedeen commanders in Afghanistan, has announced a call to arms to defend the country against the Taliban. The order has unsettled Afghan officials, who fear the resurgence of regional warlords and their independent militias, preferring instead to organize anti-Taliban fighters under the Afghan National Army and regional police forces. Khan, currently the minister of energy and water, was brought into the Karzai government as a symbol of unity. Speaking at a news conference, Khan said “There are parts of the country where the government forces cannot operate and in such areas the locals should step forward, take arms and defend the country.” President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman reflected Kabul’s unease with the initiative, “The government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people do not want any irresponsible armed grouping outside the legitimate security forces structures.” (The New York Times, November 12 2012)

Related Categories: Southeast Asia; South Asia; South Asia Program

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