SOURCE: THE HINDU
As India and China prepare for another round of Corps Commander talks for disengagement and de-escalation along the disputed boundary in Ladakh, the Army is racing to complete advance winter stocking in forward locations and build habitat for the thousands of additional troops deployed in high altitude areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a defence source said.
The sixth round of Corps Commanders talks are likely to be held in the next two-three days, another defence source said. Ahead of the talks, the ground situation and future course of action was reviewed at a high-level government meeting on Friday.
“It is not just about stocks reaching Leh. Its about the rations and other essentials reaching the forward areas where troops are deployed. It is underway in full swing. Then there is also storage. Stocks cannot be left out in the open. There are limitations of storage space with additional stocks coming in. They are also being created,” the defence source said. In Leh, heavy snowing occurs by the end of November, so there is still some time, the source stated.
Frosting has already started in many places and any stagnant water gets frozen at night. Temperatures have already dipped to minus zero degrees Centigrade in super high altitude areas, the source added.
The two major road axis used by the Army for sending supplies to Leh are Zojila and Rohtang. Rohtang gets blocked by the end of October, while Zojila can continue till mid-November. The routes are being kept open longer than normal, a senior Army officer had stated earlier.
After that, it will be only air maintenance using Indian Air Force C-17 and IL-76 transport aircraft to move loads to Leh, and helicopters to deliver them to forward locations. The logistical management needs careful planning so that supplies to high altitude areas in other sectors is not affected, the source said.
The Army has moved around 30,000 troops to Ladakh and forward areas since the beginning of the stand-off in May, and the massive build-up of forces by China at several places in Ladakh and along the LAC. Stating that with these additional troops, there is not enough warm habitat available to house them in the peak winter, the source said orders have been placed in time and work is on to set them up. “Extra engineering task forces have been moved but they are working against time,” the defence source said.
On Friday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and members of the China Study Group headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval reviewed the ground situation and the future course of action, it has been learnt. India’s stand in earlier talks has been restoration of status quo ante of pre-May positions.
The second source said that since the meeting between Mr. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10, the situation has been quiet along the LAC. The two Ministers had agreed on a five-point plan for disengagement.