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In –35°C, the Indian soldier at LAC is 50% less efficient but 100% ready to fight China

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With diplomacy making no headway, the Indian Army and the PLA remain deployed to safeguard territory and conduct further operations in pursuit of New Delhi and Beijing’s respective political and military aims. The campaigning season — the period most conducive for conduct of military operations — in Eastern Ladakh begins in May and lasts up to the end of November. With China forcefully reiterating that its 1959 Claim Line is the Line of Actual Control and India vehemently rejecting Beijing’s claim, the probability of a limited war in the next two months remains high. Onset of winter will not lower the probability but may lower the scale of operations.

Much has been said about the severe winter of Ladakh and the logistics required to sustain the troops. Many myths with respect to the effect of winter on soldiers and on conduct of operations are in circulation in the media. I bust some of these myths and analyse the effect climate and terrain will have on conduct of operations in winter.

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After 14 days of acclimatisation, physically fit troops can operate above altitudes of 4,600 meters/15,000 feet with 35-40 per cent loss of physical efficiency due to lack of oxygen. Low winter temperatures that hover around minus five to minus 15 degree Celsius by day and minus 20 to minus 35 at night, in most areas, further degrade physical efficiency by 15 to 20 per cent. Thus, soldiers can operate under the worst high-altitude conditions with maximum 50-60 per cent loss of efficiency. These observations are based on my personal experience. These conditions apply equally to both own and enemy forces.

The performance of troops is a factor dependent on physical fitness, acclimatisation and sustained capacity maintenance. The altitude and terrain in Eastern Ladakh is similar to........

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