T-90 Bhishma Tank

Chumar-Demchok (Ladakh): Just when the most sanguine among defence experts had begun believing that India and China have, for strategic reasons, pressed the pause button before the harsh Siberian winter sets in at Ladakh, a video has emerged which indicates that the game of brinkmanship is far from over.

The video, released by the government, shows Indian army tanks and armoured personnel carriers in forward locations in Chumar-Demchock in eastern Ladakh — possibly the highest tank deployment anywhere in the world.

In the cover of the ongoing commander level talks, which have essentially given both sides the time to regroup and refortify their positions, the PLA had on August 29 and August 30, moved their tanks and troops, in contravention of confidence building measures that ban military movements at night. On August 31, more troop movements took pace even as the two commanders were holding discussions to de-escalate the situation.

The video, which shows T-90 and T-72 tanks along with the BMP-2 Infantry Combat Vehicles which can operate at temperatures up to minus 40 degree Celsius, suggests that Indian Army’s armoured regiments are ready to take on the PLA at altitude of over 14,500 feet.

China, too, has augmented its fire-power in high-altitude areas of Ladakh. Earlier this month, a video of a military exercise at the high-altitude Tibet Autonomous Region was tweeted by the editor of the China-controlled Global Times. The video, which showed an array of multi-barrel rocket launchers in action, came hours ahead of talks between foreign ministers of the two nations, reports NDTV.

The Indian Army is also working on war footing to fight the extremely harsh winters by building new shelters and prefabricated structures for the soldiers. The Army needs to maintain its domination of the key heights in the area in sub-zero temperatures if it hopes to neutralise the PLA deployments.

The Eastern Ladakh area witnesses the harshest winters, where temperatures plummet to minus 35 degrees in the night during winters, coupled with high-speed freezing winds.

“The Fire and Fury Corps is the only formation of the Indian Army and also in the world to have actually deployed mechanised forces in such a harsh terrain. The maintenance of the tanks, infantry combat vehicles and heavy guns is a challenge in this terrain. To ensure crew and equipment readiness, adequate arrangements are in place for both man and machine,” Major General Arvind Kapoor told ANI near a tank exercising area.

The Indian armoured regiments can reach the LAC within minutes if required and had done so recently when the Chinese activated their tanks after the August 29-30 incidents, when India occupied several heights near the southern bank of Pangong Lake.

The entire territory spreading from eastern Ladakh to the Tibetan plateau, which is occupied by the Chinese forces, is suitable for the operation of tanks.