During the summer, the key task of the Leh-based XIV Corps is to stock up its high-altitude border posts with clothing, food, ammunition and fuel for the harsh winter ahead. It is in this little window between April and September, that the Army gets time to replenish its posts. Now, with no immediate de-escalation in sight on the Ladakh sector and both sides in war-like build up, maintaining crucial logistic supply poses a new challenge for the armies of both India and China.
A defence source, familiar with the development, told The WEEK that with huge mobilisation of troops on Ladakh sector, stocking the border posts with essentials is a "humongous" task for the force.
"It is always a tough task to do the winter stocking. But with additional deployment, the task has become more challenging. But we working round the clock to ensure uninterrupted supply," said a source. After three months, Ladakh and the surrounding region will be cut off from the rest of India for six months due to snow.
Winter sets in in these high-altitude areas by October. Before passes close, Army does the stocking of goods like tents, snow clothing, ammunition, fuel jerricans, ration, fruit juices and even high calorie chocolates. After trucks are unloaded at various points, the stocks are divided into ‘air portable’ or parachute compatible weights, and subsequently, they are air-drooped at locations by helicopters or even by AN-32 transport aircraft.
Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an eyeball to eyeball situation for nearly two months in Eastern Ladakh. Chinese PLA troops have made advancements into certain Indian occupied territories in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso Lake, Depsang region in Ladakh and significantly built up its military presence by a massive deployment of infantry soldiers, artillery guns and logistic support along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh sector. Indian Army has also done the mirror-deployment by dispatching additional troops on the border. According to an estimate, besides regular force strength, three additional division level (nearly 30,000 troops) have already been deployed by the Indian Army to counter any contingency. And after the June 15 clash in Galwan Valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, the situation has become increasingly tense.
Military analysts have started believing that with aggressive posturing by Chines, normalisation of situation on the borders appears to be 'distant'.
"With huge mobilisation of force, de-engagement process takes time. We should not expect anything before two-three months. With the Chinese refusing to pulling back, Indian Army is gearing up for a long haul," said a defence source, while adding that livestock planning is being done at the Army headquarters level to ensure uninterrupted supply. With winter coming in next three months, the 'long haul' could end up being really long and tough.
Replenishing stock is also a serious problem for Chinese military. Despite better road connectivity and terrain advantage, Chinese military is also worried about it stocking to support 'long haul'. They have amassed troops, tanks, missile units and fighter planes along the border and is building infrastructure in areas within India’s side, including a helipad being laid out near finger 4 in Pangong Tso.
After the last meeting on June 22 between Corps Commanders, where both sides agreed to mutual disengagement, no further talks is scheduled between local commanders to carry forward the pullback process.
In fact, in the recent development, People's Liberation Army has deployed its four nechanised division opposite DBO-Debang, while six mechanised division is positioned between Pangong Tso to Chumar. Another division is opposite Demchok.
A military observer said the PLA’s objectives could be to threaten a section of the 255km Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road, aimed to cut off the DBO sector that could restrict India's access to the Karakoram pass.