India Moves Tons of Supplies to Disputed Border with China for Winter

From sending mules to big transport aircraft, India’s military has initiated its whole logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a bleak winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China.

Deployment has Doubled

In recent months, one of India’s largest military logistics exercises in years has purchased vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies, and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, according to officials.

The move was prompted by a border stand-off with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that started in May and escalated in June taking a form of hand-to-hand combat. Twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives while China suffered an undisclosed number of casualties.

Both countries are continuously negotiating to solve the confrontation; however, neither side has backed down. The Indian military is now poised to keep its troops deployed along the tricky, high-altitude border through the winter.

Eastern Ladakh, the place where the flare-up happened, is typically guarded by 20,000-30,000 soldiers. However, the deployment has amplified more than two times due to tensions, a military official said, refusing to give exact numbers.

“We have mirrored the increase in Chinese troops,” the official said, adding the Indian military was well-prepared; however, did not want further escalation or prolonged conflict.

Mastering the Art of “Operations Logistics”

Temperatures in Ladakh can decrease way below freezing, and most of the time troops are placed at altitudes of over 15,000 feet, where the air is very thin, officials said. Since snow blocks mountain passes into Ladakh for a minimum of four months every winter, Indian military planners have already moved over 150,000 tons of supplies into the region.

“All the supplies that we need have already been pushed to wherever they are required,” said Major General Arvind Kapoor, chief of staff of the Indian army’s 14 Corps.

On Tuesday morning, a succession of the Indian air force’s big transport aircraft landed at a forward base in Ladakh, carrying both men and materials, as fighter jets glided overhead.

Soldiers carrying backpacks streamed out and were examined for COVID-19 symptoms at a transit facility, where they awaited further transport. The materials are safely stored across a network of logistics hubs.

At a fuel, oil, and lubricant depot near Leh, Ladakh’s main city, a hillside was covered with a batch of green drums.

At storage facilities at a nearby supply depot, boxes and sacks of ration, consisting of pistachios, instant noodles, and Indian curries were kept in tall piles. At another base near Leh, tents, heaters, winter clothing, and high-altitude equipment lay stacked.

From these depots, the materials are pushed to logistics nodes by trucks, helicopters, and, in some particularly difficult parts, mules, officials said.

“In a place like Ladakh, operations logistics is of huge importance,” said Kapoor. “In the last 20 years, we have mastered it.”