With temperature set to dip substantially in the Ladakh sector in the winter months and no solution to the border row with China in sight, the Indian Army has completed the setting up of modern habitats for thousands of soldiers deployed in forward areas to deal with any misadventure by the People’s Liberation Army, officials familiar with developments said on 18 November.
Temperatures in some places held by the Indian Army can dip to minus 40 degrees Celsius, with the super high-altitude areas also likely to receive several feet of snow (30 to 40 feet) during the peak of winters.
“Apart from smart camps with integrated facilities which have been built over the years, additional state-of-the-art habitat with arrangements for electricity, water, heating facilities, health and hygiene has been created to accommodate frontline troops. The troops are not lacking anything and prepared to take on any challenge,” said one of the officials cited above.
Fresh images emerging from Ladakh on 18 November provided glimpses of the infrastructure the army has created to support its forward deployed troops at a time talks to resolve the border situation remain deadlocked and both armies are prepared for a long haul in the Ladakh theatre.
“Troops in the front line have been accommodated in heated tents as per tactical considerations of their deployment… Adequate civil infrastructure has been identified to cater for any emergency,” said a second official.
India has made vigorous attempts to provide logistics support to its forward deployed soldiers, including the supply of specialised winter clothing from the United States. India has imported more than 15,000 sets of extended cold weather clothing system (ECWCS) from the US, with the emergency supply made by activating the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA). India signed the LEMOA, the first of the three foundational agreements proposed by Washington to deepen bilateral military cooperation, with the US in August 2016.
The Indian Army and the PLA have held eight rounds of talks to reduce friction along the contested Line of Actual Control (LoAC) without any breakthrough. At the last round of talks on 6 November, the two sides said they would ensure that their front line soldiers “exercise restraint and avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation” along the LoAC. They agreed to hold the ninth round of talks between corps commander-ranked officers soon but no date has been fixed for that dialogue yet.
India is pushing for comprehensive disengagement at all flashpoints and restoration of status quo ante of early April during the talks. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said on 6 November that India will not accept shifting of the LoAC in eastern Ladakh even as he did not rule out the possibility of the situation escalating into a larger conflict in the sensitive theatre.