With more than 100,000 soldiers deployed across a border stretching nearly 550 miles (872 km) at heights well over 15,000 feet above sea level where temperatures could soon drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius, it has been described as a frontline without parallel in modern military history.
After months of a build-up of forces at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fortunately aren’t fighting one another – but now as winter has set in both sides are battling an extreme cold as well as boredom and increased fatigue.
In addition to the extreme cold, where even touching bare metal can be hazardous, soldiers must deal with equally extreme wind chills brought on by the high-speed winds that whip down from the mountains across the Ladakh Valley. According to a report from The Indian Express, all of this is exacerbated by the rarefied atmosphere, which comes from a combination of lack of oxygen and a function of the altitude. Past deployments of Indian forces along the LAC saw an attrition rate as high as 20 percent, mostly due to medical-based non-fatal causalities.
The falling temperatures can bring on frostbite, snow-blindness, chilblain, and even peeling of skin due to the extremely dry conditions – while most soldiers will still face nausea, headaches, and disorientation. Maintaining readiness is a challenge both the Indian Army and the PLA face.
On the Indian side of the LAC, soldiers wear bulky layers of clothing to stay warm but that can impact efficacy and notably affect mobility. Keeping the soldiers fed is a problem, as it is impossible to bring in fresh fruit or vegetables