With the Army looking to strengthen troops in high altitude areas in Eastern Ladakh due to the ongoing standoff with China, the Vice-Chief of Army Lt. Gen. S.K. Saini on Saturday called for attaining self-reliance and reducing import of special clothing and mountaineering equipment.

“A large number of our troops are deployed in super high-altitude areas where the temperature touches (minus) 50°C. However, we are still importing cold weather equipment, mainly due to the lack of viable indigenous solutions,” Lt. Gen. Saini said. A collaborative effort is needed to fulfil the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat, he said at a webinar organised by the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies.

The Army has been maintaining troops in high altitude areas of Siachen glacier at heights of 20,000 feet for decades. With the ongoing standoff along the disputed border with China, the Army has procured clothing and shelter to house the troops through the winter in Ladakh as there has been no progress in talks for disengagement.

Security of Establishments

Lt. Gen. Saini also highlighted the security of defence establishments and vital installations, improvised explosive devices (IED) and drones as major priority areas to find domestic solutions. “Though the industry has stepped up to the challenge, the solutions provided lack innovation and integration,” he said, calling for efforts to ensure reduction in manpower commitment by integrating physical and electronic surveillance and incorporating automation.

Lt. Gen. Saini said IEDs seem to be gaining traction as a favoured tool for terrorists and anti-national elements. “It ends up causing both physical and psychological trauma and seriously impairs readiness, by forcing us to commit scarce resources for our protection,” he said, stressing that technological innovation is the key to combating the threat.

“Amongst other threats, drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) stand out in their innovative employment and destructive potential,” Lt. Gen. Saini said. Considering their low-cost, multi-use and dense proliferation, he said, “Both hard kill and soft kill counter-drone solutions, including swarm technology, are the need of the hour.”