As India and China continue deliberations on a proposed disengagement and de-escalation plan to end the stand-off in eastern Ladakh, the Army has completed building extreme weather habitat for thousands of additional troops to remain deployed through the harsh winter.
“In order to ensure the operational efficiency of the troops deployed in winters, the Army has completed the establishment of habitat facilities for all the troops deployed in the sector. Apart from the smart camps with integrated facilities, which have been built over the years, additional state of the art habitat with integrated arrangements for electricity, water, heating facilities, health and hygiene have been recently created,” an Army source said on Wednesday.
The troops in the front line were accommodated in heated tents as per tactical considerations of their deployment, the source said. The construction was completed by mid-October. Adequate civil infrastructure had also been identified to cater for any emergent requirements, the source added.
The altitude in Ladakh where troops are deployed ranges from 14,000-18,000 feet and the area experiences up to 40 feet of snowfall from December onwards. Coupled with the wind chill factor, the temperatures dip down to minus 30-40 degrees, disrupting road access to the areas for sometime. The Army has deployed thousands of additional troops and equipment in eastern Ladakh and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since the stand-off began in early May.
Extreme weather clothing
The Army recently procured 15,000 extreme weather clothing from the U.S. under the bilateral logistics pact, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA), for the additional troops deployed in Ladakh. “The order was placed in early July and the deliveries have been completed. In addition to the requirement, additional reserves have also been catered to and supply orders as required have been placed,” a second source said.
Last week, Army Chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said “there was no shortage whatsoever of any kind” with respect to extreme weather clothing and equipment for the troops deployed in Ladakh. The equipment normally catered to a certain number of troops at any point of time. They “had to go in for certain emergency procurements” for the additional troops due to the ongoing situation.
Gen. Naravane said that over the years they have been going in for indigenous suppliers, and out of the extreme weather clothing and equipment, of some 10-12 items, six were done by local suppliers and the contracts for another four were also being done by Indian suppliers. The Army did annual advanced winter stocking to stock up rations and supplies during the summer months to cater for the winter period from November to May. This year, the Army had to significantly ramp up the stocking efforts for the additional troops.
Last month, Vice Chief of the Army Lt. Gen. SK Saini raised the issue of continuing dependence on imports for specialised clothing and mountaineering equipment, and called for attaining self-reliance and reducing imports. The Army has been maintaining troops in high altitude areas of the Siachen glacier at heights of 20,000 feet for decades.