In the ongoing Sino-Indian border confrontation, India deployed tens of thousands of troops to the region to show its strength. But with the advent of winter, Indian troops are facing unprecedented challenges brought about by the harsh natural environment. The website of the Indian Express on the 29th described in detail how the Indian army in the so-called “Ladakh” area is struggling to maintain basic tasks such as survival, patrol and combat.
The natural environment is particularly detrimental to the Indian army.
“Historically, Napoleon invaded Russia and Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, all of them were defeated by the cold weather there. Today, the army facing off on the Sino-Indian border is facing equally terrible enemies. Worse, the report described that “Ladakh” is not a Russian plain. The peak here is 18,000 feet (about 5,486 meters) high, and the Indian army deploys more than 100,000 troops there, which is unique in military history.”
“India was inherently disadvantaged during the winter border confrontation,” said Lt. Gen. Panu, a former commander of the 14th Army, said that India was innately disadvantaged by natural conditions.” Compared with the Indian side, the terrain in China is as flat as a roof, the mountains are far apart, and the valleys are wider. Therefore, it is easier for the Chinese to build roads without overcoming too many mountain pass.
The barrier of the mountains forced the Indians to find a way to drill tunnels, so as to avoid the project being too large, the Indian army could not build wide roads. Another cruel reality is that the Himalayas block the warm and humid airflow from the Indian Ocean, causing a huge increase in snowfall on the Indian side, and “the Chinese will not be tested by snow blocking passages or long tunnels”.
For the “Ladakh” region, the first challenge in winter is the severe cold. The current highest temperature there is only 3 degrees Celsius, and the lowest temperature can be reduced to minus 10 degrees Celsius to minus 15 degrees Celsius.
In December and January, temperatures will fall further below minus 30 degrees Celsius to minus 40 degrees Celsius. Along with the high wind in the cold mountains, it means that tents alone cannot withstand the cold. Extreme cold “can cause frostbite similar to burn effects”, and “it is dangerous to touch metal directly with your hands here and may freeze.”
India’s official History of the Chinese-Indian Conflict in 1962 records the war history of the region, “In Ladakh, the first problem facing soldiers is survival, and the second is to fight against the enemy. The strange geography has a significant impact on the battle and its outcome.”
The number of casualties due to weather is almost the same as that of wartime casualties.” Major General Singh, who was responsible for the logistics of the 14th Army of the Indian Army, admitted that “the challenge for soldiers is first of all the weather, including extreme cold and high-speed wind; secondly, the thin atmosphere; and the third is the enemy.”
The survival of Indian military on the border is not optimistic.
According to the report, due to the failure to make a substantive breakthrough in the eighth round of Sino-Indian military-military-level talks, and there is no news about the next round of negotiations, about 50,000 Indian troops have to rely on long-distance transportation to ensure supply.”
For the first time in history, the Indian army deployed so many troops in the Ladakh region in winter. Although the Indian army put in transport planes and helicopters to drop supplies, this will not solve the problem.
Lieutenant General Panu said, “Imagine the airdrops dropped from the designated airdrop area and scattered within hundreds of meters or even kilometers. It’s a nightmare for soldiers who may have spent the whole day getting a few kilograms of essentials.”
Since troops of this size have never been deployed before, many of the new forward posts being built in the “Ladakh” area do not have any military infrastructure. The Indian Army provided some new heating facilities for the rear forces of Ladakh, but front-line soldiers obviously did not enjoy it.
Due to inadequate road facilities, only a few places have roads that go straight to the top of the mountain. Anonymous Indian military officials said that “even if a new ridge is seized”, the Indian army has to rely on manpower to carry the materials for the construction of the post.
Indian military sources revealed that the Indian army in Ladakh has non-combat attrition every day, and many people are forced to be sent for treatment due to cold-induced diseases. Singh revealed that the attrition rate in the “Ladakh” area was as high as 20% 10 years ago.
Although Indian officials said that the local non-lethal casualties were “not shocking”, they also admitted that India could not produce cold-proof clothing suitable for the “Ladakh” region and had to import them at a high price.
It’s not easy to patrol normally
It is obvious that the Indian troops deployed in the Sino-Indian border area cannot only be satisfied with survival, but also have to participate in patrols and even combat. A Indian officer said that soldiers need to carry 20-45 kilograms of weapons and equipment to patrol at high altitudes. Carrying an organic gun means an increase of 20 kilograms of load, which requires the assistance of multiple soldiers.
In addition to weapons and equipment, the necessary carrying equipment for soldiers themselves includes helmets, cold boots, plateau cold suits, underwear, multi-layer jackets, cold masks, goggles, sleeping bags, mattresses, toiletries, socks, water bottles, and at least 24-hour emergency, high-calorie cooked food rations. Because “if suppressed by enemy fire, soldiers must live on their own in the battlefield.”
Lt. General Panu said that the low oxygen environment in the plateau means that the efficiency of the troops has been reduced by nearly 30% to 50%, and that the work can be completed in a day on the plains and that it takes “five to seven days” in the plateau.
Any small operation can take 6-10 hours.” In reality, Indian soldiers may not be able to stay in the post for too long. They had to patrol, build bunkers and defend themselves, and also evade enemy air raids and artillery fire, and finally had to struggle with frozen soil and snow on the ground, directly bearing the consequences of extreme cold.”
Some Chinese experts said that the PLA deployed in the border area between China and India is also facing the test of the cold environment on the plateau, but relying on the modern logistics support system, the PLA is much better than the Indian army, whether it is stationed on the plateau or patrolling.
According to a report by CCTV Military Channel in early November, a new detachable self-supply and insulation cabin appeared in the plateau army. This new barracks not only have the flexibility of military tents, but also take into account the comfort and safety of fixed barracks.
It can be installed by manpower alone, and the dormitory, canteen, integrated bathroom, micro-grid and heating equipment are all available.
At the same time, the People’s Liberation Army has recently installed a variety of cold-proof combat equipment, including individual sleeping bags suitable for plateau alpine cold environments above 5000 meters above sea level and minus 40 degrees Celsius.