Despite the rocky terrain of Eastern Ladakh now being gradually mounted with snow due to the onset of winters, temperatures have continued to soar between the militaries of neighbours India and China near the de facto border in the region.
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Experts in New Delhi state that Beijing’s belligerence reflected by its expansionist policy has left New Delhi India frustrated in its hopes of finding a peaceful solution to the ongoing border stand-off which now enters its fifth month, forcing the country to gear up for a possible war.
Despite the two nations agreeing on the need for implementing a consensus on disengagement of troops in the 5th round of diplomatic talks on the Line of Control (LAC) standoff, on Wednesday (September 30), there has been no significant breakthrough.
While the 19th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was seen as a sign of progress, Beijing has shown no indication towards withdrawing its troops from the contentious Pangong Tso and Depsang areas in the region.
Moreover, China’s recent declaration that it does not recognise Ladakh as a Union Territory has seemed to push India to the edge and it has now begun preparations to deal with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) militarily.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin while responding a question on the ongoing border conflict had stated – “China does not recognize the so-called Union Territory of Ladakh illegally established by India, and opposes infrastructure construction in disputed border areas for military control purposes,” Global Times reported.
China does not recognize the so-called Union Territory of Ladakh illegally established by India, and opposes infrastructure construction in disputed border areas for military control purposes, FM spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in response to India building roads along the border. pic.twitter.com/z4SIRkJzAB
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 29, 2020
With the Indian Armed Forces deciding to remain deployed in the forward posts through the long-winter haul, a large number of T-90 and T-72 tanks, canons along with BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles have been deployed in several sensitive areas like Chumar, Depsang and Chushul sectors of the region, according to sources.
According to Indian reports, the third-generation T-90 Russian battle tanks have been deployed to the Depsang plains in sub-sector north (SSN) where the Chinese troops have prevented Indian troops from patrolling in patrol points (PPs) 10-13.
The Depsang plains, which are situated at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet, are flat and thus quite suitable for the T-90s and will prove to be a critical point for India which could use the tanks to threaten China at the Aksai Chin region, which has remained an area of dispute since the 1962 Indo-China war.
Moreover, with temperatures plummeting to minus 35 degrees in the region combined with high-speed freezing winds, the Soviet/Russian tanks and armoured vehicles will spearhead the movement against China as they are capable of remaining operational at even minus 40 degrees Celsius due to the use of special fuels which do not freeze in sub-zero temperatures.
Fire and Fury Corps chief of staff Maj. Gen. Arvind Kapoor, while speaking to an Indian news agency, said – “The Fire and Fury Corps is the only formation of the Indian Army and also in the world to have actually deployed mechanised forces in such harsh terrain. The maintenance of tanks, infantry combat vehicles and heavy guns is a challenge in this terrain. To ensure crew and equipment readiness, adequate arrangements are in place for both man and machine.”
While tanks will cover a major share of hard work under any battle, the troops of the Indian Army at the Line of Control as well as the soldiers deployed at the Pakistan border, have been equipped with new SIG 716 assault rifles which have been bought from the United States under emergency procurement orders.
In February, New Delhi had placed an order of 72,400 of the SIG 716 G2 Patrol assault/battlefield rifles to replace the Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) rifles.
Apart from the massive stocking of ration and high altitude tents in the region, the Indian soldiers have also been equipped with specialised winter clothing which includes layered jackets and world-class boots which have been imported from several countries in Europe.
“Our logistic infrastructure is smartly built in a manner that any formation coming from outside, in ‘Plug & Play’ mode, can join the units here seamlessly and be effective. Today, each jawan deputed at the frontline has state-of-the-art winter clothing and tentage.” said Kapoor.
While the Indian Foreign Ministry has stated that the seventh round of meeting between the senior commanders of two nations is poised to take place at the earliest, it is clear that New Delhi is also prepared to take up the “military option” If Plan A does not come to any fruition.