NEW DELHI: India is looking to restart the stalled troop disengagement process in eastern
with China, but is clearly taking no chances by also constructing insulated shelters and procuring foreign and domestic specialized clothing and gear for its soldiers for the long winter deployment ahead.
The high-powered China Study Group (CSG), which includes national security advisor
and foreign minister S Jaishankar, will meet on Tuesday to examine the fresh modalities and timelines for troop disengagement discussed in the fifth round of military dialogue between the two sides.
At the over 10-hour long meeting between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin on Sunday, India reiterated its demand for completing the disengagement at
and Patrolling Point-14 (PP-14) in Gogra. “But the final approvals have to be given by the political leadership on both sides,” said a source.
The overall mood in the Indian security establishment remains grim, especially with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) yet to withdraw from the 8-km stretch it has occupied from `Finger-4’ to `Finger-8’ (mountainous spurs jutting into the lake) on the north bank of Pangong Tso since early-May.
With even disengagement yet to fully take place at two of the four immediate face-off sites, the de-escalation and de-induction of troops from other sectors, including the strategically-located Depsang-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), simply does not figure on the horizon as of now.
Consequently, the Army has kicked off massive “advance winter stocking” for rations and other essential supplies for its well over 30,000 forward deployed troops in eastern Ladakh, as was reported by TOI last month.
Sources on Monday said construction of insulated habitats for troops, including pre-fabricated huts,
tents and large containers, is also now underway, while adequate supplies of diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel have been “moved up” in the high-altitude region.
Similarly, the Army has started getting initial deliveries under multiple contracts inked with domestic and foreign manufacturers for around 45 products, which includes specialized winter clothing and other personal gear like snow goggles, layered gloves and socks for soldiers.
“Domestically, there is capability to manufacture such clothing and gear for temperatures up to minus 30-35 degree Celsius. Four to five items required for even lower temperatures, like `down’ jackets, trousers and sleeping bags, are being imported from Switzerland, Germany and Italy…they should begin arriving next month,” said a source.
Emergency arms purchases from countries like the US, France, Russia and Israel are also concurrently in progress, with acquisition proposals ranging from “Spike Firefly loitering munitions” and additional “Spike” anti-tank guided missiles from Israel to small hand-launcheddrones and 72,000 more SiG Sauer assault rifles from the US.
All these preparations for the long haul come in face of China’s continuing intransience in de-escalating the over 90-day long military confrontation along the entire frontier in eastern Ladakh, from DBO in the north down to Demchok in the south.
India, of course, has undertaken “mirror deployments” of troops, artillery, armour and other weapon systems to “more than match” the PLA build-ups. Though the ongoing military dialogue has focused more on disengagement at the “friction points” in Pangong Tso, Gogra-Hot Springs and Galwan Valley areas, the deep PLA intrusion in the Depsang Plains area to block Indian soldiers from going to their PPs-10, 11, 12 and 13 remains another major concern.
India has deployed additional brigades (each has around 3,000 troops) and T-90S main battle tank regiments in the Depsang plateau, which located at an altitude of 16,000-feet provides access to the DBO advance landing ground and the critical Karakoram Pass in the north. “But the immediate focus is on disengagement at Pangong Tso and Gogra,” said the source.