Indian Army Corps 2003
v.1.2 June 7, 2003

Mandeep Bajwa & Ravi Rikhye

Thanks to Dr. Sanjay Bhadri-Maharaj for assistance.

Please do not regard deployments given here as 100% accurate.

The Indian Army's first corps was XV Corps (Srinager) , raised during the first Kashmir War, and which had first seen action with 14th Army in Burma. The next corps was XI Corps (Jullunder) to take command of the formations in the Punjab as India reorganized its post-1947 army to meet the new threat of Pakistan. In 1961, with tension with China rising, IV Corps was activated in the northeast; this had been XV Corps's companion in 14th Army. In 1962, XXXIII Corps was raised to cover Sikkim, IV Corps area of responsibility being reduced to NEFA. This corps had also originally fought in Burma under 14th Army.

India expanded the number of its divisions from 10 to 25 between 1962-65, but added only three corps - the two listed above, and I Corps (Mathura) as its first strike corps. This HQ was still under raising when it was deployed in the Jammu area during the 1965 War.

In 1970, II Corps was raised as a second strike corps; the HQ went to the east in 1971 to command troops in the western Bangladesh sector. As a skeleton formation - as I Corps had been in 1965 - the corps did not even have enough integral transport to shift locations. The corps HQ was shifted to the west even as fighting in East Pakistan continued, to take over Indian I Armored and 14 Infantry Divisions. These divisions were being held in reserve against an expected Pakistani counter-offensive that never materialized. After the war the corps settled down at Ambala. [Note from Ravi Rikhye: This corps was renumbered to II Corps after a spy-scandal revealed that the Pakistanis had learned its original number despite the secrecy surrounding its raising. If anyone remembers the details, please write to us.]

In 1972, XVI Corps was raised at Jammu, to reduce XV Corps' AOR to Kashmir and Ladakh. Its formation sign, a chess knight, was personally chosen by Lt. General JFR Jacobs who, as a major general had been chief of staff of Eastern Command during the Bangladesh War. He intended it to symbolize by-passing operations, as the knight is the only piece that can jump over others on the chess board. Before the decade was out, X Corps had been raised at Bhatinda to reduce XI Corps' AOR to central and north Punjab, while the new corps took over south Punjab and north Rajasthan. In the 1980s III Corps was raised at Dimapur in the northeast. It was dual-tasked as the CI corps and as the third corps of Eastern Command in the event of war with China. Then came XII Corps at Jodhpur, the desert corps. We believe it was originally intended to be numbered VI Corps but for unknown reasons the designation was changed. After India's intervention in Sri Lanka, the provisional HQ controlling India's expeditionary force became XXI Corps based at Bhopal. This is both a strike corps and would also be used if India were to make another big intervention overseas.

In 1999, after the Kargil fighting, XIV Corps (Leh) was raised to control troops in Ladakh. This was a move long demanded by the Army; the three sectors of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in what is loosely called Kashmir are separated by geography and require separate corps HQs.

In 2002, during the mobilization crisis with Pakistan, XVII Corps was raised as an expedient, to split the XVI Corps' AOR. This move was necessitated because of the influx of reinforcing formations. Normally, one of the strike corps moves its HQ into the area for this purpose; this time, however, the Indian Army wanted to keep all three strike corps free for offensive operations in the Punjab and Rajasthan. Accordingly, HQ XXXIII Corps [Eastern Command] was used to provided the staff of HQ XVII Corps. In one sense this was sensible, as many of the reinforcing formations had come from this corps and from Eastern Command. In another sense, why the corps HQ itself was not moved since the corps had been severely drawn down for reinforcing the west is not known to us.

One factor that might have played into the decision is that the Army really does need a second corps in the Pathankot-Jammu-Poonch area. XVI Corps, which covers this line, is the world's largest corps, holding 19 infantry, three armored, and nine CI brigades, the strength of a nine-division, three corps strong army. Further, this corps must control the geographically quite distinct Poonch-Rajouri-Naoshera and Akhnur-Jammu-Samba-Kathua-Pathankot sectors. The Ministry of Defense civilian bureaucracy, however, has defacto control over the Army's operational requirements, and for reasons unnecessary to explain here, the MOD is reluctant in the extreme to approve matters like an extra corps HQ.  Indeed, there is a good case for also splitting up Northern Command into two separate commands: its AOR covers more than 750 kilometers, as much as the Inner German Border once did. We are pleased to note that in May 2003 the Indian press reported that the Indian army had asked for a new Northwest Command to be split off from Northern Command, though the chances of the MOD approving this are problematical. Nonetheless, a new corps HQ here is inevitable.

Meanwhile, there is also a move to create a defacto CI Corps HQ at Srinager, to take control of the five CI forces which are actually divisions. This is in line with a decision to get the Army out of the CI business entirely: as fresh CI raisings are inducted into the theatre, a corresponding number of Army battalions return to their main job, which is defending the frontiers. Nonetheless, the CI forces still operate under HQ XV and XVI Corps, and a CI corps would permit the Army to entirely get out of the CI game. [This being India, of course, nothing is as it seems: the CI forces - the Rashtriya Rifles - are actually regular army in all but name. From the constitutional viewpoint, however. there is an important distinction. The regular Army has no powers of arrest over the citizenry,  whereas the paramilitary forces and Rashtriya Rifles do.]

 

Indian Corps deployment from Kashmir on down

By extra brigades we mean that a division has a fourth brigade, at times even a fifth. 28 Division in XV Corps is the largest single division in the world, controlling as many as 8 separate brigades at a time in the CI campaign in the Kupwara area.

Two divisions are not clearly assigned to corps. One may be considered a reserve for Northern Command. One, in Central Command, is triple tasked to the UP-Tibet border, to XVI Corps, and to XIV Corps.

XIV Corps (Leh) two divisions, an independent brigade, and extra brigades.

XV Corps (Srinager) two divisions; two CI "forces" each equal to a division; extra brigades.

XVI Corps (Nagrota, near Jammu) five divisions, three CI "forces" each equal to a division; three independent tank brigades; extra infantry brigades. At approximately 150,000 troops, it is the largest in the world. Important: one of the five divisions would be a Command reserve but for the CI campaign

XI Corps (Jullunder) three divisions, one tank, one mechanized independent brigades; extra brigades with the divisions.

X Corps (Bhatinda) three divisions, two of which include an armored brigade each, one independent tank brigade.

XII Corps (Jodhpur) two divisions; one tank, one mechanized, and one infantry independent brigades.

II Corps (Ambala) strike formation; three divisions including one armored, one large independent armored brigade, one artillery division.

I Corps (Mathura) strike formation; one armored division, one division with an integral armored brigade, one artillery division, one independent infantry brigade.

XXI Corps (Bhopal) strike formation; one armored division, one division which includes an integral armored brigade, one infantry division which is triple-tasked as an expeditionary division and to protect the Andaman Islands.

XXXIII Corps (Siliguri) three mountain divisions.

IV Corps (Tezpur) two mountain, one infantry divisions, independent mountain brigade

III Corps (Dimapur) two mountain divisions, additional brigades as needed for CI duties from other formations.

 

This lineup fails to account for one division and several independent brigades. One independent brigade is a parachute unit under Army HQ.

 

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