Mild winters have been forecast for the plains of North West India in November while the commencement of extremely harsh and punishing conditions over the glaciers have been declared for this season. The satellite imageries indicate shrinking of glaciers mainly on account of positioning of troops both of India and Pakistan in the region.
Commencement of winters is generally preceded by a good and fairly long spell of fair sky and good visibility over the plains of north India. This seems to be a missing feature this season. Presumably the extended monsoon this year has narrowed the gap and interval with clear sky and bright sunshine between monsoons and winters. Winters have arrived before time in the plains and this is an indicator to the early harsh conditions for the glaciers. Glaciers as such are vulnerable to rapid and intense changes in the weather parameters on account of even small perturbations. Any single day can start with sunshine and end up experiencing a range of weather conditions like fog, clouds, rain and snow within a period as short as 12 hours.
Military personnel man the posts as high as 20,000 feet above mean sea level. The temperatures can drop to extremes at -50ºC here and tons of snowfall, at times, may leave the troops stationed in the area entirely at the mercy of gods. The area, which remained uninhabited till late 1984, now houses semi-permanent and some permanent shelters, which are capable of sustaining inclement weather conditions particularly from November till February.
Located in the eastern Karakoram ranges in the Himalayas, at altitudes of 14,000 to 20,000 feet, survival itself is a challenge; let alone remaining vigilant and prepared to defend any eventuality from adversaries. It is hard to comprehend the psyche of an individual who experiences such a situation, knowing very well that he may not get evacuated in case of any emergencies because of the weather conditions. Inclement weather conditions may restrict air operations for days together, as it limits the flying machine’s capability of carrying and delivering load. Here, the biggest enemy is the biting cold along with a hostile terrain. Any small ailment to start with can grow into grave situations, even leading to fatalities. Most of the casualties reported are on account of harsh weather conditions rather than from combat with the enemy.
Deployment of troops at these posts itself is a huge task as one has to go through a long process of preparation. As a routine, a soldier spends a couple of months in training, acclimatization and stage-wise deployment before being finally positioned at the demarcated post. A battery of medical tests and physical fitness examinations at every stage necessitates high grade of physical and mental strength in every trooper chosen for the post.
Whatever may be, a soldier is sufficiently prepared to cater to all these factors and stay for the stipulated period of about three months in one go. Even this length stay, which might seem ridiculously short, may take a toll on troopers affecting vital faculties of the human body.
Photograph by Wikipedia