The line between disorder and order lies in logistics, wrote Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. The observation is quite relevant for India today. With no immediate de-escalation between India and China in the Ladakh sector, the Indian military now faces the challenge of getting crucial supplies to the nearly two lakh soldiers and support staff deployed there.
On August 11,Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat told a parliamentary committee that the military was ready for a long haul on the LAC and for deployment in harsh winter.
No other army deploys as many soldiers at such heights, and the Leh-based XIV Corps carries out the world’s largest winter stocking exercise annually. The Army spends an estimated 015 lakh a year to keep a soldier on heights ranging from 15,000ft to 18,000ft. The cost excludes weapon and ammunition, information on which is classified.
Retired Major General Amrit Pal Singh, former chief of operational logistics of the XIV Corps, said that, usually, about two lakh tonnes of supplies are transported and stored before the winter sets in October, cutting Ladakh off from the rest of the world. This is called Advanced Winter Stocking (ASW), which serves the forces for about six months. “But with additional deployment, you require at least double the logistics,” he told The WEEK.
Ladakh is connected by road through the Manali-Leh road and the Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh route. During winter (October to March), passes on these routes are closed. So, in the window between April and September, the Army dispatches about 100 trucks a day with rations, engineering and medical stores, weapons, ammunition and equipment, clothing and vehicles. There are about 80 items stocked for soldiers, including vast amounts of kerosene, diesel and petrol, which provide heat and fuel vehicles.
Singh said that a Srinagar and Leh round-trip for a truck that can carry 10 tonnes of supplies costs around 01 lakh. With a C-17 Globemaster military aircraft, which can carry up to 50 tonnes, an hour-long flight would cost roughly 024 lakh.