As consensus fails, Indian, Chinese soldiers battle minus 20 degree temperatures

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SUMIT KUMAR SINGH
New Delhi, Oct 6 (IANS)
Temperatures at critical mountain peaks and passes in the Himalayas along the disputed India-China border have dropped to minus 20 Degrees Celsius, presenting a fresh challenge to the thousands of troops deployed on both sides.
Senior military personnel from India and China are expected to meet on October 12 for the seventh time to discuss de-escalation along the unmarked border in eastern Ladakh.
All previous talks, however, have failed, dashing hopes of an early disengagement.
To add to the woes, for more than a month, soldiers are perched on peaks rising to 17000 ft because a turn-around of all troops is yet to happen owing to the arduous terrain and tough logistics.
On August 29, in a sudden stealth operation carried out mostly under the cover of darkness, India occupied critical heights and mountain passes along the South Bank of the Pangong Tso – a glacial lake at 16,000 ft.
“Only food and water are being reached to these points,” said a senior official.
The six-month-long border dispute between nuclear-armed nations is now turning into a test of endurance and logistics as both sides have dug in.
Soldiers holding on the peaks for more than a month include those from the Special Frontier Force (SFF) – a special force comprising Tibetan refugees raised after the India-China war of 1962.
China, too, has deployed troops a few metres away from Indian position on the heights. The SFF troops are holding 13 critical heights which were never held in the 1962 war and do not even have basic shelter.
“No temporary structures have been built at these heights. There are no roads or infrastructure on these heights,” added the official.
China, too, is facing logistical issues in holding corresponding positions.
Even in such a bad situation, the troops are on high alert since the PLA has also deployed soldiers few metres away at some of the critical heights.
There would be no thinning of force at these heights till the time China completely withdraws its troops, said a source.
India and China are engaged in a six-month-long standoff at the LAC.
Despite several levels of dialogue, there hasn’t been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.

(Sumit Kumar Singh can be reached at sumit.k@ians.in)

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