LEH, India (Reuters) – Since the deployment of mules on large transport planes, India’s military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a border bitterly disputed from the Himalayas with China.
In recent months, one of India’s largest military logistics exercises in recent years has brought large quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food to Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India it administers as the territory of the union, officials said.
The movement was triggered by a border clash with China in the snowy deserts of Ladakh, which began in May and intensified in June in a hand-to-hand combat. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed while China suffered an undisclosed number of casualties.
The two countries are negotiating to resolve the confrontation, but neither side has backed down. The Indian army is now ready to keep the troops deployed along the treacherous border and at high altitude during the winter.
Eastern Ladakh, where the outbreak occurred, is normally equipped with 20,000-30,000 soldiers. But the deployment has doubled with tensions, said a military official, who declined to provide exact figures.
“We have reflected the increase in Chinese troops,” said the official, who added that the Indian army was well prepared but did not want further escalation or prolonged conflict.
Temperatures in Ladakh can drop well below frosts and troops are usually deployed at altitudes of more than 15,000 feet, where oxygen is scarce, officials said.
Since the snow blocked mountain passes in Ladakh for at least four months every winter, Indian military planners have already moved more than 150,000 tonnes of materials to the region.
“All the supplies we need have already been moved anywhere,” said Major General Arvind Kapoor, chief of staff of the 14th Indian Army corps.
MOVING TO THE FRONT LINE
On Tuesday morning, a succession of large Indian Air Force transport planes landed at Ladakh Advanced Base, carrying men and materials, while fighter planes roared overhead.
Soldiers with backpacks ran out and were checked for symptoms of COVID-19 at a traffic facility, where they waited for more transportation.
The materials are stored in a network of logistics centers.
In a fuel, oil and lubricant depot near Leh, the main city of Ladakh, a slope was covered with groups of green drums.
In the storage facilities of a nearby supply warehouse, boxes and ration bags, including pistachios, instant noodles, and curry from India, were found in high piles. At another base near Leh, there were tents, heaters, winter clothes and high-altitude equipment.
From these depots, the materials are transported to logistics nodes by trucks, helicopters and, in some especially difficult parts, by mules, officials said.
“In a place like Ladakh, operations logistics is of great importance,” Kapoor said. “In the last 20 years, we’ve mastered it.”
Reports of Devjyot Ghoshal; Edited by Sanjeev Miglani and Richard Chang