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Old July 20th, 2016, 04:36 AM
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India moves battle tanks to Ladakh to confront China's growing buildup

This deployment of tanks in these remote heights comes almost five decades after India made a desperate effort at tank battle during the 1962 war.

As the winter night wraps itself around the remote mountains along the disputed border with China, personnel of the Indian Army start their T-72 tanks. The winter drill is not an inimical action against China, but a necessity to keep the Russian tanks running at those heights.

As India catches up with China’s aggressive military and infrastructure build-up across the border, among the most unusual steps initiated by New Delhi is to deploy the T-72 tanks on the barren heights of Ladakh.

After the Army’s desperate and futile bid to use tanks at those heights during the 1962 war with China, this is the first time that they are being deployed again at these freezing altitudes. Then six AMX-13 tanks were airlifted to Ladakh in AN-12 transport aircraft. But they failed to make any significant impact as the crew were not acclimatised to the environment and the tanks were not equipped to operate in the rarefied atmosphere.

Though tanks are primarily meant for operations in the plains, the Indian military has adopted several unusual tactics to beef up its presence. This has resulted in non-standard procedures to keep the tanks operational, among them the repeated switching on during the nights in winter to prevent freezing.

Specific fuel

“What we have done is that we have procured special additives and lubricants for high altitude terrain such as winter grade diesel and additives for the lubrication system, which prevents it from freezing in the tank,” says Colonel Vijay Dalal, Commanding Officer of a tank regiment.

As part of recent force accretion measures, two regiments of T-72 tanks have been deployed — the first in 2014 and another late last year. A third regiment will be moved in soon, forming a full brigade.

The Ladakh region is lined with plains in between the mountain ranges and the mechanised units add a major punch to the increased boots on the ground. India has already deployed tanks in Sikkim.

China too has major mechanised units on its side of the frontier and the brigade is expected to ensure offensive parity.

Operating and maintaining tanks at such low oxygen conditions has significant challenges. There is severe degradation in the performance of these tanks as the cold temperatures and high altitude affect several parts and sub-components of the tanks.

While the tanks and crew have acclimatised, they have not been able to test their fire power here due to lack of firing ranges.

“Some training is done here but we cannot do the entire range of exercises due to limitations in ranges,” said an officer.

One of the key obstacles is the denotification of the Mahe field firing range near Nyoma in December 2013 due to its proximity to the Changthang wildlife sanctuary.

The Army now sends its crew to the training centre at Ahmednagar, which is in the plains and has much different conditions.

Sources in the Army said they were now in the process of setting up a simulator for use by both the armoured regiments. As part of efforts to deepen military-to-military cooperation, India has proposed to host the second round of tactical level Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercises along the India-China border.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/nationa...cle8867212.ece
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Old July 20th, 2016, 04:42 AM
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Re: India moves battle tanks to Ladakh to confront China's growing buildup

India ramps up its military presence in Eastern Ladakh

The process of force enhancement was put in place over the last five years.

Bunkers drilled into barren hills, battle tanks at over 14,000 feet, and additional troops on newly built roads. India’s quiet efforts at beefing up military capabilities to match China’s wide-ranging transformation across the border are finally becoming a reality.

This reporter was part of a small group of journalists given exclusive access to the eastern Ladakh bordering China.

A much-criticised policy after the humiliation of 1962 war had resulted in India deliberately neglecting infrastructure even as the Communist neighbour transformed the mountainous and disputed border into a showcase of its economic might with all weather roads running up to frontline military posts.

“We have to defend our borders. So whatever it takes us in terms of infrastructure development, in terms of force accretion, we have to do in the best manner,” Lt. Gen. S.K. Patyal, General Officer Commanding the Leh-based 14 Corps, which is responsible for the entire western sector with China and some parts of the Line of Control with Pakistan, said at Tangtse.

He also expressed complete satisfaction at the focus on development of border roads by the Army, the Ministry of Defence and the Indian government.

Longer stints for troops
The process of force enhancement was put in place over the last five years.

In a major operational change, since 2012, the Army began deploying units on longer tenures along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

The Army has also moved in tanks and mechanised units, as well as artillery to some areas of Ladakh. Several fortified bunkers on mountains are visible along the way in key areas. In fact the increased patrols both on land and in water on the Pangong Tso lake have resulted in increased stand offs with the Chinese army, which are resolved through banner drills and the agreed mechanisms, officials said.

India and China have historically differed on the boundary between the two countries, and in 1962 fought a short and brutal war. However both sides agreed to resolve the border dispute through talks and in 2005 signed an Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question and have had several rounds Special Representative level talks.

Road, air links upgraded

Augmenting rapid airlift capabilities, India operationalised the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) located at over 16,000 feet. Work is now on to improve road connectivity to this critical area. Work on the 255 km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road is progressing at a quick pace. The alignment of the DSDBO road was decided by the China Study Group (CSG) with the cabinet secretary and other senior bureaucrats and representatives from the army and intelligence as members. DBO is about 16 km south of the Karakoram Pass.

A critical bridge on the road, 150 kilometers from Darbuk, was completed last month and black topping of the road is in progress. While about 90 kms has been black topped, work up to 120km is expected to be completed by year end.

“In the past few years we have made rapid progress and by 2022 I am confident the road would be completed in all respects,” said Col B.S. Uppal, commanding officer of 16 Garhwal Rifles. He added that even now DBO can be reached with the newly constructed bridge. However, as of now, the road is closed for three to four months of the year.

Heavy vehicle ready

In addition several other roads along the route are being upgraded and strengthened which will facilitate the movement of heavy vehicles. China has already built massive infrastructure along the border and has repeatedly conducted exercises to rapidly transport troops to the border in case of a crisis. In Eastern Ladakh, China has three air fields at Kashgar, Shiquan and Hotan and several mechanised and armoured columns deployed along the frontier.

Officials said with increased numbers, India is only correcting the balance. “There is not much accretion by China, but their logistical capability has gone up,” one officer observed. To counter Chinese air power, India has been activating a series of advanced landing grounds along the frontier and fighter aircraft have been practising maneuvers in Leh.


http://www.thehindu.com/news/nationa...cle8862745.ece
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Old July 20th, 2016, 04:43 AM
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Re: India moves battle tanks to Ladakh to confront China's growing buildup

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