Army won’t take eyes off Ladakh, preps to shop for Siachen-like gear for troops
With Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) dragging its feet on restoring the status quo ante along the 1,597km Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector, the Indian Army has started preparing for a long winter as it does not want a repeat of April 2020 next year.
Top government officials confirmed that the Indian Army has asked its defence attaches posted in embassies in the US, Russia and Europe to identify warm clothes and snow tent manufacturers in case there is a need for emergency purchases.
After Operation Meghdoot in Siachen in 1984, the Indian Army gets all its requirements fulfilled by local manufacturers with regard to igloos, semi-hemispherical domes, Down parkas, snow goggles, boots and gloves for troops guarding the heights in the western sector.
While the Indian Army has matched the Chinese PLA in terms of troop strength and support elements in the Ladakh sector, its commanders totally dismiss reports of induction of over 35,000 troops recently. However, the military commanders are clear that they will have to man positions along the LAC in specific areas to prevent any PLA aggression next year. “After the PLA aggression, we don’t trust the Chinese and fear that they will come back again north of Pangong Tso as summer arrives in 2021,” said a military commander.
Although the PLA has disengaged from patrolling points 14 (Galwan), 15-16 (Hot Springs), a smattering of adversary troops are still on forward location at patrolling point 17 A (Gogra) and withdrawal from all contested finger features is a distance away at the Pangong Tso.
With the cold and arid claimate of Ladakh, not much snow is expected in the general area of patrolling points 15, 16 or 17, but the over 17,000 feet Chang La (pass) gets filled with snow and lies en route to defences at Pangong Tso. “In order to cater for winter clothing requirements, we have not only placed orders with domestic manufacturers but also asked troops other than those stationed on Saltoro ridge and Siachen glacier to give up extreme snow clothing. For instance, even troops at Partapur and Thoise are allowed Siachen clothing but the height of the two bases is same as Leh. So in the worst case scenario we will ask Partapur and Thoise troops to give up their down jackets, trousers, gloves, boots and goggles to their fellow jawans being posted up on the occupied Aksai Chin front,” said a second Army commander.
The PLA aggression in the Ladakh sector has created so much of mistrust between the two armies that both will keep troops on select locations all along the 3488 km LAC. “The Chinese aggression came despite all talks of peace and tranquility. It is very important on part of both sides to settle the border issue soon as the number of friction points are increasing on the LAC and even a small spark can cause a flare-up, as unlike in the past, the Indian Army is regularly mounting patrols to earmark Indian territory and defend it to the last inch,” said a former Army chief.