India is making vigorous attempts to provide logistics support to its forward deployed soldiers in the eastern Ladakh sector, where more than 50,000 Indian troops are likely to remain stationed through the winter months to deal with any provocation by the Chinese forces, with no end in sight to the tense border standoff, people familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.
From specialised winter clothing to rations and arctic tents to portable heaters, military planes and helicopters have been flying to Ladakh almost daily with their cargo holds filled with crucial supplies and gear that soldiers would require to slug it out in the inhospitable mountain terrain, the officials said, requesting anonymity.
Fresh images coming out of Ladakh on Tuesday provided glimpses of the extraordinary effort being made by the military to support its high-altitude deployments in the sensitive sector. Necessary steps have also been taken for equipment sustenance, the officials said.
In a statement made in Lok Sabha on the situation in the Ladakh sector, defence minister Rajnath Singh said, “I can assure you that the morale and motivation of our armed forces is very high…They are being provisioned with suitable clothing, habitat and the required defence wherewithal.”
Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane visited forward locations in Ladakh on September 3 to review the army’s operational preparedness and the logistics arrangements for sustenance of forces through the winter. China has deployed sizeable military assets in the eastern Ladakh theatre, including 50,000 troops, 150 aircraft, tanks, heavy artillery, missiles and air defence systems, with India matching every military move made by the neighbour.
“The determination of our troops is praise worthy. They are capable of serving at forbidding altitudes with scarce oxygen and in extremely cold temperatures, something that they have effortlessly done over the last many years on Siachen and in Kargil,” Singh said in Lok Sabha.
He said the lower house should pass a resolution in support of the armed forces that have been defending the country at towering heights, braving inclement weather in Ladakh.
Top Indian and Chinese military commanders are likely to hold a meeting along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) this week to reduce military tensions in eastern Ladakh where the situation remains tense after a series of recent maneuvers by the two armies in the Pangong Tso area.
Corps commander-ranked officers have so far met five times but failed to break the deadlock. They will now be meeting for the first time after the Indian Army swiftly moved and occupied key heights to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from grabbing Indian territory on the southern bank of Pangong Tso in a stealthy midnight move on August 29.
The Indian Army controls ridgeline positions on the southern bank of Pangong Tso that allow it to completely dominate the sector and keep an eye on Chinese military activity, with the most significant heights being held by India on Rezang La and Reqin pass where the PLA made some desperate attempts to regain lost ground earlier this week.
The Indian Army has also taken control of key heights overlooking the PLA’s deployments on the Finger 4 ridgeline on the northern bank of Pangong Tso where rival soldiers are deployed barely a few hundred metres from each other. The Chinese side has mobilised a large number of troops and weapon systems along the LAC as well as in the eastern Ladakh theatre where the current friction areas include Gogra, Kongka La and the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso, Singh said.
“In response to China’s actions, our armed forces have also made appropriate counter deployments in these areas to ensure that India’s security interests are fully protected,” he added.