India activated a key foundational pact with the US last month to acquire urgently needed high-altitude systems for soldiers deployed to forward areas along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh who are likely to stay on through the winter as tensions with China continue.
Sources said that 11,000 sets of extended cold weather clothing system (ECWCS) arrived late last month after India made an urgent request for assistance under a bilateral pact. These sets have come from the stockholdings of the US Army and have been dispatched to forward areas where troops are braving the cold.
This is perhaps the first time the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (Lemoa), signed in 2016 after years of discussion, has been used in an operational context. The pact gives the two nations access to each other’s military and civil facilities for repairs, supplies and refuelling and has earlier been used during wargames and occasional refuelling of ships and aircraft.
Sources said that so urgent was the need that the US was requested to provide all possible stocks that could be spared. India has over 50,000 additional troops deployed in Ladakh to counter the massive PLA build up since early May.
ECWCS are vital to keep soldiers alive at extreme altitude and temperatures which could touch -40 degrees Celsius in winter. So vital was the need that a small number of the ECWCS systems that arrived included ones issued to US soldiers in the past.
Having exhausted reserves, India has been hard pressed to find clothing and habitat systems for thousands of soldiers inducted at the heights. All Indian missions abroad have been tasked with a specific list of equipment that is required by the Army, which include boots, tents, sleeping bags, suits and socks. However, it has not been easy to find sources of supply that can quickly deliver products. Also, such large quantities of high altitude survival gear are not readily available in the patterns and colours suited for military use.