Army could induct ‘another division of troops’ in eastern Ladakh as China continues build-up
An army convoy moving towards the Zojilla pass in Drass | Representational image | ANI
New Delhi: The Army is considering inducting additional troop strength of upto a division along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in response to the constant troop build-up by China in the region, ThePrint has learnt.
This would mean additional troops of almost 12,000 personnel being moved to eastern Ladakh for acclimatisation and subsequent deployment if the need arises, according to defence sources.
“As the Chinese build-up increases, there is a requirement of corresponding increase of troops on our side. It is being discussed if another division of troops should be inducted in eastern Ladakh,” said a source.
Once finalised, this will be over and above the existing troop deployment of over three divisions in eastern Ladakh since May when the standoff with China began and intensified with the Galwan Valley clashes, before taking a fresh turn with Indian troops taking over heights at the southern bank of Pangong Tso late last month.
The defence sources said this would be significant given that the Chinese have not only continued with their troop build-up, but also brought in heavier-calibre weapons with longer ranges at certain locations along the LAC, including in the Northeast.
“The Chinese have brought in heavier-calibre artillery guns and tanks, which would enhance their range for deeper targeting of Indian territory to support their additional troops,” said the source quoted above.
“So a corresponding increase of Indian troop levels and weapons would provide adequate reserves and enable the field commanders to match any belligerent action by the Chinese in an appropriate manner.”
Late last month, the Chinese brought in tanks and artillery guns near the Spanggur Gap, prompting India to put in place troops and equipment to counter the deployment.
As reported by ThePrint last month, China has been constructing a surface-to-air missile site as well as other infrastructure on the banks of the Mansarovar Lake in the India-Nepal-China tri-junction area near the Lipulekh pass.
Sources said there has also been some redeployment of missiles with higher ranges by China.
However, though there is a necessity to increase the number of troops at the LAC, the corresponding challenges in terms of logistics, habitat and clothing will have to be tackled, a second source told.
Temperatures at the extreme high altitudes in Ladakh have already started dipping and the troops stare at a harsh, long winter when the temperature reaches up to minus 30 degrees Celsius.
“Considering the limited deployment and road spaces, induction of additional troops will stretch the infrastructure,” the source said.
The logistics hurdle
The planning for the logistics started ahead of July. ThePrint was the first to report on how the Army is busy making preparations for the additional soldiers moved to the LAC with thousands of tonnes of ration items, special winter clothing and arctic tents for habitat.
In an interview to ThePrint in July, former 14 Corps commander Lt Gen. P.J.S. Pannu (retd) had said there is a case to keep an additional division permanently in Ladakh, but added that the LAC could end up becoming more like the Line of Control with Pakistan where troops are eyeball to eyeball round the clock on all days of the year.
“To go in for a force accretion is easy, but the consequences would amount to asking your adversaries to build up,” Pannu had said. “So, when the build-up happens on both sides, you are militarising the area as mirror movements will happen.”
He, however, said with two nuclear armed nations, “it is not desirable” to militarise the borders to a point that could result in a military accident and disaster more easily.
The LAC continues to remain tense with Indian and Chinese troops stationed in proximity of each other — as close as 300 metres at some places.
The security situation along the LAC was reviewed by the China Study Group Friday to decide on India’s next course of action and preparedness even as the next corps commander-level talks are scheduled to be held Monday morning at Moldo meeting point on the Chinese side of the LAC.