The U.S. recently sent the Indian Army extreme cold weather clothing for its troops deployed on the border with China in the western Himalayas, reports revealed Tuesday.
“An initial lot of extreme cold weather clothing from the American defense forces have been received and are being used for our troops there,” government sources told Asian News International (ANI) on Tuesday. The initial consignment included 20,000 cold weather suits, according to India Today.
The Indian Army “maintains a stock of 60,000 of these extreme cold weather clothing sets” for troops deployed in the northern Indian state of Ladakh, which borders China, the sources told ANI.
“This year, there was an additional requirement of around 30,000 of these sets as close to 90,000 troops are deployed in the region in view of the aggression by the [Chinese] People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the LAC,” or India’s official name for its unmarked Himalayan border with China.
The cold weather suits were an “emergency acquisition” by the Indian Army ahead of the upcoming winter season, according to the report.
“[T]he extreme cold weather clothing will help the Indian Army troops to get through harsh winters in the Ladakh sector,” ANI explained.
The Indian Army has deployed two additional units to the LAC in recent months amid an ongoing border standoff with China in the Himalayas. The army recruited the specialized units “from plains and a mountain division which has been training for high-altitude operations for many years [sic],” according to the report.
The cold weather suits are among many other military supply shipments the U.S. has either recently sent or is planning to send to India’s armed forces, “including a number of assault rifles for the special forces as well as the SiGSauer assault rifles for the infantry troops,” ANI added.
Reports in September indicated that the Indian Army was bolstering its Special Frontier Force (SFF) to secure its border with China amid escalating tensions over the unmarked boundary. Comprised almost entirely of ethnic Tibetan soldiers, the SFF is an operational unit founded by India in 1962 during its border war with China.
“Losing that war made India realize that it needed dedicated mountain troops capable of conducting reconnaissance and strike operations at high altitudes,” Business Insider noted.
To create the unit, New Delhi chose members of India’s Tibetan refugee community, most of whom fled to India with their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, after a failed uprising against Chinese occupation in Tibet in 1959. The Tibetan refugees were prime candidates for the unit, as they were naturally acclimated to the high altitudes of the Himalayas “and motivated to fight Chinese communist forces,” according to the report.
An ethnic Tibetan member of the SFF was killed in Ladakh on August 29 in a border confrontation between Indian and Chinese forces near Pangong Tso (lake), Tibetan officials said at the time. The incident followed two months after a skirmish between Indian and Chinese border regiments in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15. That clash killed 20 Indian soldiers and an estimated 40 Chinese troops and sparked an ongoing border standoff between the two Asian neighbors.