Army moves 3 divisions, tanks to Ladakh sector
The Indian Army has moved three divisions, several squadrons of frontline tanks, additional artillery pieces and fully-ready mechanised infantry squads to the Ladakh sector, as part of its efforts to strengthen its deployments in response to fortified Chinese military presence in the region, four people familiar with developments said on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The three army divisions sent to build the necessary military strength to deter possible aggressive moves by the Chinese forces deployed across the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) account for up to 30,000 well-trained soldiers, as high-altitude deployments are being bolstered with sharp focus on contingency planning, said the first person cited above.
A large number of the troop reinforcements sent to Ladakh have been drawn from the army’s reserve formations, based in a mountainous region in north India and another state in the Hindi-speaking belt. These reserve troops have operated in the sector as part of their regular training, said the person quoted above. Soldiers may also have been pulled out from peace stations for the Ladakh role, he added.
Hindustan Times is not revealing the location of the bases from where troops, weapons and equipment have been deployed to Ladakh because of security considerations.
While the reserve formations have moved with their own integral artillery elements, the tanks and the infantry combat vehicles have been marshalled from multiple bases across the western sector for force augmentation in Ladakh, a second person said.
Additional forces have been sent to Ladakh by road and air, he said. The Indian Air Force’s heavy-lift aircraft have also flown soldiers, tanks and other equipment from Chandigarh to Leh, as reported by HT on Tuesday.
“Military equipment, including tanks, has been moved to Ladakh from areas in the western sector where very favourable combat ratios already exist to deal with Pakistan,” said the third person cited above. He added diverting this equipment from these areas would not make any “elemental difference” to the situation on the western front.
Both India and China have significantly reinforced their deployments with thousands of soldiers, fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery, missiles and air defence systems in the region, as attempts to reduce tensions have not yielded a breakthrough.
If the stalemate persists, Indian and Chinese forces are likely to hold positions in the area till at least September, with the onset of winter making it virtually impossible for the two sides to stay forward deployed, said the fourth person cited above. “The deployment of additional forces became mandatory keeping in mind that the Chinese buildup is expected to last for the next three months,” he said.
Experts believe that deploying essential and additional elements of combat power to the Ladakh sector is necessary as the continuing Chinese buildup calls into question the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) intent to restore status quo ante (early April) in strategic areas.
“The Chinese military has flexed its muscle with its buildup at the point of impact, as also in depth areas on their side of the LAC. Due to China’s belligerence, it is axiomatic that we should have desired combat ratios to offset possible evil designs,” said Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd), a former Northern Army commander. He added that India’s military posture would enable it to talk to the Chinese from a position of strength.
India has also deployed its air defence weapon systems to counter possible aerial threats from the PLA-Air Force in the Ladakh sector where tensions rose sharply after a brutal clash in Galwan Valley left 20 Indian and an unconfirmed number of Chinese troops dead on June 15. The IAF has raised its guard to deal with any military provocation by the Chinese forces and forward bases have been ordered to be on their highest state of alert, said the fourth person.