How is the Indian Army preparing for winter in Ladakh?
The government has never deployed such large forces (army, air force and paramilitary forces) in Ladakh before. Since road facilities will not be available til Ladakh between mid-November and mid-May (2021). The need for winter stocking is huge for civilians and the military, which will be fulfilled by IAF for essential daily Supply and movement of troops whenever necessary.
Lets look on the Challenges first, before we move to Indian Army’s Preparation .
The challenge is expected to be very different from what Indian soldiers have faced in previous years. Earlier, the Indian Armed Forces were stationed at the bases and returned after patrolling on the LAC. But this year, a large number of troops have been deployed in some overhead shelters on the LAC, where no one has lived before since 1962.
The Indian Army will face huge challenges like Limited road infrastructure, lack of drinking water, more chances of injuries and cold related diseases, lack of medical facilities, avalanche in eastern Ladakh all through this winter due to the ongoing standoff with China’s People’s Liberation Army along the Line of Actual Control.
Lack of fresh drinking water for the Indian troops, as rivers freeze and the lake water in the region is not potable. So getting drinking water for the troops, and fuel for cooking and to keep them warm, aside from the rations, will be the other challenges in the approaching months.
Due to the Low temperatures and wind chill factor at high altitudes lowers the temperature by 1 degree Celsius for every 3 km/h wind speed. In such situations the installation of a post requires logistic planning to avoid tentages being blown or huts being blocked by heavy snowfall. It becomes impossible for a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) to take care of an entire battalion of about 900 soldiers, which is spread over multiple positions.
How Indian Army is preparing ?
Apart from a large number of Indian Air Force transport aircraft, such as the US-built C-17 and C-130J and the Russian-built IL-76, India has deployed more than 6,000 army trucks to supply fuel and food to Ladakh.
The fuel required for all military equipment in Ladakh, from heaters to tanks and is being transported to Ladakh and stored in underground dumps in the area. Each of these dumps has the capacity to store 4 lakh liters of fuel. Over the years, India has built several underground fuel pumps in Ladakh.
A special winter-grade diesel and kerosene, which remains unaffected to -33 ° C, is being stored in Ladakh for use during harsh winters. This special grade of fuel was launched by the Indian Oil Corporation last year.
The army not only needs to bring fuel and ration to Ladakh and store it, but it should distribute to its posts and camps in the forward areas which is done by air using army and air force helicopters.
Besides food and kerosene oil, the troops would need special tents and shelters, as well as adequate numbers of extreme cold conditional (ECC) clothing.
The army has stocked high-energy rations, and in winter, soldiers have been given special winter clothes and prefabricated tents to survive the winters.
The crucial thing to note in all these preparations is that much of the route leading to Ladakh gets snowed-in after October, and therefore most of the supplies will have to be brought to the LAC in advance.
During winter all surface sources of fresh water freeze, the army has engaged geologists to search for underground sources of water.
We can say in the summer season, the Chinese Army could stay in front of the Indian Army for some time, but if we talk about the winter season, we do not think that the Chinese army will be able to stay in front of the Indian Army much longer. Jai Hind