A grey IAF CH-47 Chinook begins taxiing down the runway at Leh’s Khushu Rimpoche airport, its distinctive twin rotors furiously chopping through the thin mountain air to generate lift.

列城的Khushu Rimpoche机场,一架灰色的印度空军CH-47支奴干飞机开始沿着跑道降落,其独特的双旋翼在稀薄的山间空气中猛烈地旋转以产生升力。


Inside the belly of this US-built chopper are neatly packed cardboard cartons of high-altitude clothing, winter boots, canned tuna in oil and special chocolate milk that ground crew has offloaded from another American workhorse, a Boeing C-17 heavy lifter that flew in from Chandigarh. The recipients, thousands of Indian soldiers parcelled out on posts along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in eastern Ladakh to face off with the PLA. This is the closest the two armies have been to a military confrontation in over three decades. With the standoff entering its fifth month with no détente in sight, the focus has now shifted towards logistics, ensuring that over 40,000 freshly transferred soldiers are fed, clothed and sheltered through the approaching winter. Leh, the capital of the newly established Ladakh unx territory, is the fulcrum of a colossal military effort.

在这架美国制造的直升机的腹部,整齐地装着纸箱,里面装着高海拔的衣服、冬季靴子、油浸的金枪鱼罐头和特制的巧克力牛奶,这些东西是地勤人员从另一架美制重型飞机上卸下来的,这架波音C-17重型运输机是从Chandigarh飞来的。数千名印度士兵被分配到拉达克东部实控线沿线的哨所中,与PLA对峙。这是近30年来两国军队最接近军事对抗的一次。僵局已进入第五个月,看不到缓和的迹象,目前的重点已转向后勤,确保4万多名新转移而来的士兵在即将到来的冬天得到衣食住行。列城是新建立的拉达克联邦领土的首都,是一场巨大军事行动的支点。

The Kushok Bakula Rimpoche Airport is one span of an air bridge stretching 700 km south into the Indian hinterland. Flights of Soviet-built IL-76s and US-built C-17s fly nonstop daily sorties from Chandigarh to here ferrying essential supplies. From here, the cargo is offloaded into helicopters and flown or trucked to the army’s forward posts. This logistical exercise unfolds under a military sky ballet that begins unfailingly at the break of dawn, MiG-29s, Sukhoi Su-30s and Mirage-2000s from bases across north India pinwheel around the azure blue skies in combat air patrols and Apache helicopter gunships clatter around the airport like angry dragonflies.

Kushok Bakula Rimpoche机场是一座向南延伸700公里进入印度腹地的空中桥梁的一跨。苏制的伊尔-76和美制的C-17每天不间断的从昌迪加尔飞到这里运送必需品。从这里,货物被卸到直升机上,然后通过空运或以卡车运到军队的前沿阵地。这场后勤演习是在一场军事空中芭蕾的指挥下展开的,它在黎明时分就开始了,来自印度北部基地的米格-29、苏霍伊苏-30和幻影-2000在湛蓝的天空上盘旋,阿帕奇武装直升机像愤怒的蜻蜓一样在机场周围轰鸣。

Taped on the cockpit door of an Army Aviation Corps Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter is a small sign that is a grim reminder that military logistics isn’t cheap: ‘Flying cost, Rs 7,17,000 per hour.’

一架陆军航空兵Dhruv先进轻型直升机的驾驶舱门上贴着一个小标牌,残酷地提醒人们,军事后勤并不便宜:“飞行成本为每小时71.7万卢比。”

‘Enhanced winter stocking’ or EWS as the army calls it, stockpiles food and fuel to last the military garrison through the winter when snowfall blocks the only two road routes into the region, the Srinagar-Leh national highway and the Manali-Leh road which is open between May and September. But this year clearly, it is EWS-plus, the army has to cater for the food, clothing, shelter and equipment for another corps-sized formation it inducted into the theatre beginning June this year. The Chinese have an equal number across on the Tibetan plateau. In sheer numbers alone, these deployments by the two Asian giants are possibly the largest high-altitude massing of troops in the history of military standoffs.

“增强型冬季贮备”,即军方所称的EWS,是为了储存食物和燃料,在5月至9月期间开放的情况下,在降雪阻塞进入该地区仅有的两条道路——斯里纳加勒国家公路和马纳利-列赫公路——前维持军队驻军过冬的需要。但是今年的EWS任务很明显是加强版的,军队必须为今年6月进入战区的另一支部队准备食物、衣服、住所和装备。中国在青藏高原上也部署了同样数量的军队。仅从数量上看,这两个亚洲巨人的这些部署行动可能是军事对峙史上规模最大的一次高原军事集结。


Two rounds of high-level talks, between foreign minister S. Jaishankar and his counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on September 4, and between defence minister Rajnath Singh and Chinese defence minister General Wei Fenghe, have failed to resolve matters to any satisfaction. In a dozen rounds of talks at the military, diplomatic and NSA level, India had asked for the Chinese to restore the LAC to what it was before April 2020; that is, sending the PLA back to its barracks in Xinjiang Military District and restoring ‘status quo ante’. The Latin phrase has since been missing in the statements issued after these two rounds of talks. In a strongly worded statement in Parliam-ent on September 15, defence minister Rajnath Singh squarely blamed China for violating multiple agreements by amassing troops on the border. “In the recent incidents, the violent conduct of Chinese forces has been in complete violation of all mutually agreed norms,” he said.

9月4日,印度外长辛格和中国在莫斯科举行了两轮高层会谈,印度国防部长辛格和中国国防部长也举行了两轮会谈,但都未能取得任何令人满意的解决方案。在十几轮军事、外交和国家安全级别的会谈中,印度要求中国将实控线恢复到2020年4月之前的水平,恢复“原状”。而这两轮会谈之后发表的声明中都没有使用这个拉丁语词汇。9月15日,印度国防部长拉杰纳特·辛格在议会发表了一份措辞强硬的声明,明确指责中国在边界集结军队,违反了多项协议。

On ground zero in eastern Ladakh, both sides have settled down to a tense game of high-altitude ‘chicken’, the side which pulls back first, loses. The Chinese have refused to withdraw eight km behind Finger 4 on the Pangong lake and two km behind the Gogra Post in northern Ladakh. The Indian army is atop the hills of an erstwhile No Man’s Land in the Chushul sub-sector south of Pangong lake and on heights facing the Chinese positions north of the lake. Logistic tails, ferrying men, supplies and materiel to sustain the frontline, have begun snaking behind the two deployments as a brutal Himalayan winter approaches.

在拉达克东部的原爆点,双方已经开始了一场紧张的高海拔“懦夫”游戏,谁先退,谁就输。中国拒绝从班公湖8公里处和拉达克北部高格拉哨所2公里处撤出。印度军队则占据了班公湖南部丘舒尔分区的一座昔日荒无人烟的山顶,以及湖的北面正对中国阵地的高地上。随着喜马拉雅严酷的冬季的临近,为维持前线而运送人员、物资和物资的后勤部队开始在两方部署的后面蜿蜒。

The Logistics Tail

后勤的尾巴

By the end of September, winter will set in over India’s largest high altitude cold desert, Ladakh. The skies become overcast, icy skin-lacerating winds whip around the barren landscape, temperatures dip to as low as 40 degrees below zero and the snow piles up to 40 feet. Fresh eggs, juices and vegetable oil flown in by the air bridge from Chandigarh turn to stone by the time they reach the forward posts.

到9月底,冬天将降临拉达克,这是印度最大的高海拔寒冷沙漠。天空变得阴云密布,刺骨的寒风在这片贫瘠的土地上呼啸而过,气温降到零下40度,积雪堆积到40英尺高。从昌迪加尔空运过来的新鲜鸡蛋、果汁和植物油在到达前线哨所时都变成了石头。



In a picturesque valley overlooking Leh, a signboard welcomes you to ‘The Scattered Tanks’, the world’s highest FOL depot. The air is thick with the smell of fuel. There are thousands of green drums and jerrycans for as far as the eye can see. An army officer stands on a giant concrete tank with metal hatches that holds 400,000 litres of diesel, enough to fill half an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and explains how the lifeblood travels around the sector. A row of civilian tankers empty their tanks into this underground reservoir. From here it is decanted into barrels and fuel tankers, a process known as ‘bulk breaking’, and trucked to the posts along the LAC. Giant convoys of military trucks, each carrying 12,000 litres of fuel, radiate out of Leh.

在一个俯瞰列城的风景如画的山谷中,插着一个招牌,欢迎你来到这个“遍布油箱之地”,这是世界上最高的FOL仓库。空气中弥漫着燃料的气味。在视线所及的范围内,有成千上万的绿色油鼓和油罐。一名军官站在一个巨大的混凝土油罐上,油罐上有金属舱口,能装下40万升柴油,足够装满半个标准的奥运会游泳池。一排民用油罐车把油料倒进这个地下油库。从这里,它被抽进桶和油罐车,这个过程被称为“散装”,然后用卡车运到LAC沿线的哨所。每辆车载着12000升燃料,组成巨大的军用卡车车队,从列城辐射而出。


“We’ve learned a lot over the past three decades...the glacier (Siachen) taught us so much,” says Lt Gen. Rakesh Sharma, former GoC of the 14 Corps. The key to ensuring that troops can sustain themselves through the winter is logistics. “Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics,” as US Marine Corp’s Gen. Robert H. Barrow noted four decades ago. These could well be the motto of the professionals in the army’s Directorate General of Operational Logistics and Strategic Movement (DGOL&SM) in South Block which is coordinating this massive movement of men and materiel. The army has had three decades of experience in setting up the infrastructure to battle the cold in Siachen, where conditions are far more demanding that the frontier with China. It will need time and resources to create the same all along the LAC.

前14军团中将拉凯什·夏尔马中将说:“过去30年,我们学到了很多……锡亚琴冰川教会了我们很多。”确保部队能过冬的关键是后勤保障。“业余爱好者谈论战术,而专业人士研究后勤,”美国海军陆战队的罗伯特·h·巴罗将军在40年前指出。这很可能是陆军作战后勤和战略行动总局专业人员的座右铭,该总局在南区协调大规模人员和物资的移动。在建立基础设施以抵御锡亚琴地区的严寒方面,军方已有30年的经验。锡亚琴地区的条件比与中国接壤的边境要苛刻得多。需要时间和资源,才能沿着实控线创造同样的后勤条件。

It costs the Indian Army Rs 5 crore a day to maintain a brigade of troops, over 3,000 soldiers, on the Siachen glacier. There are no estimates as to what the new LAC deployments will cost, but it will be substantial. This does not count the significant cost of the air bridge, the transport aircraft and helicopters that ferry supplies to its far-flung winter posts and the wear and tear on equipment and machinery. The Border Roads Organisation, the MoD’s military infrastructure-building agency, has been tasked with ensuring the Srinagar-Leh route stays open for as long as possible this year. This involves widening the existing road and procuring additional snow clearing equipment to clear the Zojila Pass leading into Leh.

在锡亚琴冰川,印度军队每天要花费5亿卢比,才能维持一个有3000多名士兵的旅。而新的实控线部署将花费多少,则没有估计数字,但数额将是巨大的。这还不包括空中桥梁、向其遥远的冬季哨所运送物资的运输机和直升机以及设备和机械的磨损所造成的重大费用。印度国防部的军事基础设施建设机构——边境公路组织的任务是确保斯里纳格尔-列赫公路在今年尽可能长时间开放。这涉及拓宽现有道路和采购更多的除雪设备,以清除通往列城的Zojila关口。


“I talked to officers, JCOs (Junior Commissioned Officers) and took stock of preparedness. I took a first-hand look of the situation on the ground. The morale of the jawans is high and they are ready to deal with all challenges,” army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane told news agency ANI after touring units across Ladakh on September 4, just days after the Indian special forces were ensconced on the hill features. The move forward has brought troops on both sides within hundreds of metres of each other and, potentially, closer to confrontation than ever before. The army’s amended rules of engagement (RoE) after the June 15 clash in which 20 Indian soldiers and an unnamed number of Chinese soldiers died, now, reportedly, authorises troops to open fire in case of any provocation.

“我与军官、低级军官交谈过,评估了准备情况。我亲眼目睹了当地的局势,士兵们士气高昂,准备好应对所有挑战,”印度陆军参谋长M.M. Naravane上将在9月4日视察了拉达克的部队后告诉印度通讯社。就在几天前,印度特种部队已经驻扎在了那些山上。这一行动使双方的军队距离彼此只有几百米,而且可能比以往任何时候都更接近对抗。在6月15日的冲突中,20名印度士兵和一名未透露姓名的...死亡。据报道,之后军队修改了交战规则,现在授权军队在任何挑衅行为中开火。

The task will be to ensure these soldiers sitting on exposed hilltops are protected from the elements at all times. A military surgeon points to three challenges in ensuring medical care for frontline soldiers, the sheer number of troops brought in by the rapid deployment, the vagaries of the high altitudes and the absence of fixed infrastructure in the forward areas.

现在的任务将是确保这些位于裸露山顶上的士兵在任何时候都受到保护,免受恶劣天气的影响。一名军医指出,在确保前线士兵的医疗护理方面面临三大挑战:快速部署带来的庞大兵力、高海拔地区的变幻莫测以及前线地区缺乏固定基础设施。

There are unnerving parallels between events in the run-up to the 1962 border conflict fought between October and November that year and what is currently playing out on the LAC. The casus belli for the 1962 war was the Indian government’s ‘Forward Policy’ which saw penny packets of soldiers asked to occupy posts along the LAC, some of them still in summer uniforms and no boots.

1962年10月至11月之间爆发的边境冲突,与实控线上目前的局势有着令人不安的相似之处。1962年战争的开战理由是印度政府的“前进政策”,他们要求士兵占据实控线沿线的哨所,其中一些士兵仍然穿着夏季制服,没有靴子。


Over the past four months, army off-icials say the Northern Command has stocked up special fuel and lubricants for tanks and armored personnel carriers and spares for maintenance. It has established water points and tube wells for troops. Warm living barracks have been prepared with facilities like central heating systems. Various types of ammunition, including small arms, missiles and for tank and artillery have been stocked and the medical system has also been prepared for any eventuality.

军方官员说,在过去四个月里,北方司令部已经为坦克和装甲运兵车储备了特种燃料和润滑油,并为维修备货备件。它为部队建立了供水点和管井。温暖的生活营房已经准备好了中央供暖系统等设施。各种类型的弹药,包括小型武器、导弹、坦克和火炮的弹药已经储备完毕,医疗系统也已准备就绪,以备不测之需。

The PLA, meanwhile, has created its own infrastructure along the Western Highway where it is deployed. Infrastructure, including pre-fabricated shelters, are being set up at a relentless pace to prepare for a sustained deployment through the winter. Analysts believe both the divisions of the Xinjiang Military District will continue to remain forward deployed along the LAC. This, even as the PLA steps up its propaganda offensive to get India to back down from the heights.

与此同时,解放军在其部署的西部高速公路沿线建立了自己的基础设施。包括预制帐篷在内的基础设施正在以不间断的速度建立起来,为整个冬季的持续部署做好准备。分析人士认为,新疆军区的两个师将继续沿着实控线向前部署。这是在解放军为了让印度从高地撤退而加强宣传攻势的同时发生的。


Military analysts point to ties bet-w-een the two sides going into a deep freeze unless the border issue is demarcated. “Militarily, we must remain alx and prepare ourselves to spend the winter of 2020/21 on the LAC,” says Lt Gen. Vinay Shankar, former director-general artillery, and a veteran of the 1962 war with China. “This ought to give sufficient time to the diplomats and the political leadership to arrive at a settlement or figure out the contours of our future relationship.”

军事分析人士指出,除非边界问题得到解决,否则双方的关系将陷入深度冻结。“在军事上,我们必须保持警惕,为在实控线度过2020/21年冬季做好准备,”曾参加1962年中印战争的前炮兵总干事维奈·尚卡尔中将(Vinay Shankar)表示。“这应该能给外交官和政治领导人足够的时间来达成一项解决方案,或者规划出我们未来关系的轮廓。”