When a country is on war or preparing for war, that country’s economy gets adversely affected. Currently, the process disengagement is going on at LAC. In this article, we are going to look at the expenses that the government has to bear in order to maintain troops at the LAC. We will try to understand how maintaining troops on LAC will also impact our economy.
The army is reducing its troops from LAC following the process of disengagement, but keeping the character of China in mind constant verification is required. For these verifications maintaining troops on LAC is important for the Indian Army. China has also trying to open new fronts such as the Lipu Lekh pass with the help of Nepal. Indian Army is following the tactics of mirror deployment at the places of the standoff. At present thousands of troops are deployed along LAC. Maintaining thousands of troops is a costly affair.
The weather at LAC in Ladakh is deadlier than the enemy. Eastern Ladakh region is a high-altitude desert region where temperatures can drop below -20 degree Celsius in winters. During summer the temperature ranges between 3 degrees to 35 degrees Celsius whereas in winter the minimum temperature ranges between -35 to -20 degrees Celsius. At such high altitude as Ladakh, the air gets thinner making breathing difficult. In such adverse climatic conditions maintaining troops on LAC is a challenging task.
“A soldier is fighting three elements: the enemy, the weather and his own health”Major AP Singh who was posted in Ladakh from 2011 to 2013 explained the terrain of Ladakh.
For maintaining a soldier on LAC, the government has to spend over ten lakh rupees excluding his salary. These expenses are just to maintaining him there; for the food, for the fuel to keep the shelter warm, for specialized clothing. There are various hidden costs as well. Along with these expenses, there are various other classified expenditures that cannot be disclosed in the public domain.
The next big challenge for maintaining troops on LAC is logistics. Sending the essential supplies including food, fuel, and ammunition is a herculean task. There are two ways of sending the supplies: the roadways and by air. The road transport network is available only in summers. Due to its location in the Himalayas, the roads cross the mountains through passes only which are inaccessible during the winters. During the winter the roads and the passes get choked by snow and landslides.
They are basically two road networks that connect Ladakh to the rest of the country: the Rohtang pass and the Zoji La pass. Both the passes get choked by snow during the winter. Army and Border Road Organisation (BRO) keep working hard to keep the Rohtang pass open round the year. But this does not solve the problem. When we use Rohtang pass we also have to cross Baralacha La pass and Thanglang la pass which are at much higher altitude are likely to be snowed during the winter. Thus, road transport cannot be used during winters. It can only be used during the summer. One round trip of a 10-tonne truck (which can carry 10 tons of cargo) from Sri Nagar to Leh cost around 1 lakh rupees.
The only option left for winter is aerial transport. The Indian air force operates a variety of transport aircraft. The mightiest of all is C17 Globemaster. The Antonov an-32, Dornier do-228, HS 748 aka “Avro”, Ilyushin Il 76 are the chief freight carriers of the Indian Air Force. The per-hour flight cost of a C 17 Globemaster with full payload and fuel is approximately 43 lakh rupees.
Carrying capacity of various aircrafts
- C17 globe master : 77519 kg
- An-32: 6700 kg
- HS 748 Avro: 5132 kg
- Il 76: 42000 kg
Heavy equipment such as tanks and other vehicles can only be mobilized with c17. Thus, deploying a single tank in Ladakh would cost around one crore just in transportation.
Reaching Leh is just the first step. The supplies are taken to the forward bases like Daulat Beg Oldi. Some forward bases like Siachen can only be accessed through helicopters. As the terrain gets tougher army uses local porters and mules to take the supplies to their deployment area.
Capacity of various helicopters
- HAL Druv: 1.5 ton
- Mi 17: maximum 5 ton
- Cheetah: 1 ton
Increased demand for supplies
According to the XIV corps posted in the Ladakh, 2 lakh tones of supplies are generally required which are stocked in 6 to 7 months. Due to the additional deployment in the region, this figure would be around 3 lakh tonnes now. Moreover, due to the Chinese virus pandemic government has to procure everything from the open market further increasing the expenses.
Anything above 14000 feet is termed as super high altitude. Galwan valley, Gogra post, and Hot springs all are above 1400 feet. Depsang plains are even higher than 17000 feet. For such high altitudes, the army provides specialized clothing and mountaineering equipment (SCME) which includes helmets, snow axes, special boots, cords, water and windproof white camouflage uniforms, snow goggles, etc. each set costs around 2 lakh rupees. Deploying additional soldiers would require additional SCMEs, taking the cost of deployment even higher.
Battle against the clock
Winter is coming. The forces have to fight against time as well. It takes 15 to 20 days for a truck to complete a turnaround journey from Srinagar to Leh. Now the additional supplies have to be taken to the frontline before the passes close.
The root cause of the Standoff, i.e. the infrastructure development projects such as the construction of roads are also to be continued. Raw materials for these projects also have to stock. Shelters for additional troops have to be completed before September. Because cement does not set after September.
Thus mirror deployment during the winter would be a huge trade-off. Sustaining this mirror deployment only, not a war, would be very difficult for our economy which is slowing down due to the Chinese virus lockdown. We hope that this standoff soon ends and ends with Indian victory. One thing is for sure, our great armed forces would do whatever it takes to safeguard our sovereignty and freedom
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”-Sun Tzu