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Indian Army gears up for winter in E Ladakh

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NEW DELHI (PTI):  In its biggest military logistics operation in decades, the Indian Army has rushed tanks, heavy weaponry, ammunition, fuel, food and essential winter supplies to high-altitude areas in Eastern Ladakh to maintain its combat readiness through the treacherous winter of around four months, military sources have said.

They said Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane, aided by a group of top commanders, has been personally involved in planning and overseeing the implementation of the mammoth exercise that began in mid-July and is nearing completion.

A significant number of T-90 and T-72 tanks, artillery guns and infantry combat vehicles were flown into various sensitive areas including Chushul and Demchock sectors as part of the logistics operation, the sources said on Sunday.

Under the operation, the Army transported large quantities of clothes, tents, food items, communication equipment, fuel, heaters and other supplies to army personnel deployed at forward posts and mountain passes at the height of over 16,000 feet.

"By far it is the biggest logistics operation that has been implemented in Ladakh post Independence. Its scale is humongous," a senior military official told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

To deal with any Chinese misadventure, India has deployed over three additional Army divisions in Eastern Ladakh where the temperature fluctuates between minus five to minus 25 degrees Celsius from October to January.

The sources said India imported winter clothing and gear from a couple of countries in Europe and they have already been supplied to the troops in eastern Ladakh.

Almost all transport aircraft and helicopters of the Indian Air Force including C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster were used to transport thousands of tonnes of food, fuel and other equipment to the region.

The Indian Army has decided to maintain its current strength of troops in all key areas in Eastern Ladakh in the winter months as there was no sign of early resolution of the border row with China.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has also decided to remain on high alert in the forward air bases along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The Indian and Chinese armies held the sixth round of Corps Commander talks on September 21 in the backdrop of deteriorating situation in the Chushul sector following three incidents of shots being fired in the air by the Chinese military since the intervening night of August 29 and 30.

Following the incidents, India had occupied at least 20 strategic heights around southern and Northern banks of Pangong lake.

In the talks, the two sides agreed not to escalate the situation by announcing a series of measures. However, there was no breakthrough on the disengagement process.

The sources said a series of talks will be required for the disengagement process to begin with.

The situation in Eastern Ladakh escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash in Galwan Valley on June 15. The Chinese side acknowledged suffering casualties, but it is yet to divulge the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.

The situation further deteriorated following at least three attempts by the soldiers of the PLA to "intimidate" Indian troops along the Northern and Southern bank of Pangong lake area in the last three weeks where even shots were fired in the air for the first time at the LAC in 45 years.

As the tensions escalated further, the foreign ministers of the two countries held talks on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet in Moscow on September 10 where they reached a five-point agreement to defuse the situation in Eastern Ladakh.

The agreement was the basis for the sixth round of Corps Commander-level talks on Monday which was also attended for the first time by a joint secretary from the MEA.

The agreement aimed at ending the tense standoff included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.


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