India’s armed forces, that have since October 1947 frequently been tasked to achieve the impossible, have never failed to deliver, often going way above and beyond the call of duty by using the institutional genius of improvisation. It is due to this that the Indian Army (IA), ably supported by the Indian Air Force (IAF) enjoys the enviable and as-yet unmatched reputation of being the world’s only army to deploy and successfully employ armoured vehicles at forbidding altitudes (from 12,000 feet till 16,000 feet ASL). The following slides explain all this with great clarity, especially during the conflicts of 1947 and 1962, plus contingency deployments in 1987 and 2008.
It was in the last quarter of 1986 that the IA, under OP KARTOOS, temporarily had six T-72M1s airlifted to Leh along with a regiment of BMP-2 ICVs for deployment in Chushul Finger Area and Spanggur Gap. Since the conduct of OP KARTOOS, the IA’s Karu-based 3 ‘Trishul’ Division had until 2012 just one mechanised infantry regiment—1 Guards—with 52 BMP-2s. This regiment used to carry out regular manoeuvre warfare exercises in the Wari La region in Pangong, which is located at an altitude of 16,600 feet ASL. The IAF too has built a makeshift airstrip in Mud Village near Pangong.
The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) posturing to test Indian control of the strategic Finger Area in northern Sikkim in 2008 prompted the IA in early 2009 to deploy T-72M1s and BMP-2s strengthen defensive positions. In fact, the highest gallantry award to a Border Roads Organisation (BRO) personnel was conferred upon a dozer operator, Zalim Singh, who had cleared a strategic road near Theing village. He was decorated with a Bar to Shaurya Chakra—for clearing a path for the armoured and mechanised infantry regiments. While the IA had introduced the BMP-2s in the northern Sikkim plateau in the late 1980s, the T-72M1s were deployed after repeated PLA transgressions throughout 2008 in the Finger Area, a 1km stretch of land in the northern tip of Sikkim that overlooks a valley called the Sora Funnel, and which is considered a strong defensive position. The T-72M1s were inducted after a monumental effort by the BRO to widen roads, construct tracks and strengthen bridges leading to northern Sikkim. The T-72M1 regiment was taken up the high plateau by truck-pulled trailers. This followed a discovery by the IA of the alignment of a new East-West road then being built by Beijing would pass thorough the Finger Area. Construction by China of this road was halted after New Delhi lodged a diplomatic complaint.
Looking To The Future
(to be concluded)