LEH, India (Reuters) – From deploying mules to large transport planes, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies of thousands of troops for a harsh winter along the fiercely disputed Himalayan border with China.
In recent months, one of India’s largest military logistics exercises in years has brought huge amounts of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food to Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said.
The relocation was sparked by border confrontation with China in the snowy deserts of Ladakh, which began in May and escalated into hand-to-hand combat in June. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed while China suffered undisclosed casualties.
Both sides are negotiating to resolve the confrontation, but neither side has backed down. The Indian military is now ready to detain troops stationed on the insidious alpine border in the winter.
East Ladakh, where the explosion took place, is usually served by 20,000-30,000 troops. But deployment has more than doubled the tension, a military official said, declining to provide an exact number.
“We have reflected on the increase in Chinese troops,”
Temperatures in Ladakh can drop well below zero and troops are often stationed at altitudes above 15,000 feet, where oxygen is scarce, officials said.
As the snow blocks pass into Ladakh for at least four months each winter, Indian military organizers have already moved more than 150,000 tonnes of material into the region.
“All the supplies we need have already been pushed wherever they are needed,” said Major General Arwind Kapoor, chief of staff of the 14th Corps of the Indian Army.
FERING TO FRONTLIN
On Tuesday morning, a series of large Indian Air Force transport planes landed at the front base in Ladakh, carrying people and materials as fighter planes roared over them.
Soldiers with backpacks leaked and were checked for symptoms of COVID-19 at a transit facility where they were awaiting further transport.
The materials are stored in a network of logistics centers.
In a fuel, oil and lubricant depot near Lech, the capital of Ladakh, a hill was covered with clumps of green drums.
In storage facilities in a nearby warehouse, ration boxes and bags — including pistachios, instant noodles, and Indian curries — stood in tall piles. At another base near Lech were tents, heaters, winter clothing, and high-altitude equipment.
From these landfills, materials are pushed to logistics hubs by trucks, helicopters and, in some particularly difficult parts, mules, officials said.
“In a place like Ladakh, operational logistics is very important,” Kapoor said. “We’ve mastered it for the last 20 years.”
Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Edited by Sanjeev Miglani and Richard Chang