A Cold Desert
Colonel S Dinny, who until 2017 commanded an Indian battalion in the region, said that the terrain is “extremely treacherous”, with troops having to climb as high as 5,200 meters.
“It’s a cold desert,” he told AFP. “It takes a toll on the body and mind. The oxygen level is only 60 percent of what is available in cities like Delhi, Mumbai.”
And it’s also confusing.
The area “is not demarcated on the map, there is no boundary. The maps have not even been exchanged so that the other person knows what someone is claiming. There are no boundary markers,” Dinny said.
But retired lieutenant general DS Hooda, who headed the army’s Northern Command, said that there are detailed protocols that have ensured misunderstandings usually do not escalate — starting with the no-guns policy.
“If patrols come face to face, they will stand at a distance and unfurl banners. India‘s banner will show the Chinese are in their territory with a ‘Go Back’ and vice versa for China,” Hooda told AFP.
“These are the sort of protocols that have been laid down by both countries and largely these protocols have been followed in the past and things have remained peaceful,” he said.
“What we are seeing right now is a complete breakdown of the protocol,” he said.
“In our time we revisited our protocol and our rules of engagement so that any disagreements can be handled in a more military fashion — rather than fighting it out like goons on the street.”
by Aishwarya Kumar with Parvaiz Buhkari in Srinagar