Residents of Chushul village in Ladakh are taking an arduous journey to a Himalayan mountain peak known as Black Top to provide supplies to Indian Army engaged in a standoff with Chinese troops in a bid to safeguard their village from coming under Chinese control.
According to a report in The Guardian, 100-odd men, women and young boys with unwieldy and overstuffed duffel bags, rice sacks, heavy fuel cans and bamboo canes strapped to their backs are moving upward to Black Top, where hundreds of Indian army tents are stationed on the horizon.
They are not taking this journey out of kindness, reported Guardian. In the coming winter months, temperatures here will drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The villagers fear that if they do not help the Indian Army secure their positions along the mountain ridges bordering China and help prepare the troops for the harsh winter ahead, their village might soon be under Chinese control.
“We want to help the Indian Army to secure their positions immediately,” said Tsering, a 28-year-old volunteer from Chushul. “We are carrying supplies to them, doing multiple rounds in a day, to ensure that the army doesn’t face too many problems.”
India and China have been engaged in major conflict near the Panging Tso and several other friction points from Sub Sector North to the Chushul area of Ladakh.
India also changed the rules of engagement of not using weapons during clashes with the Chinese after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) killed 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan valley in June.
Chushul, a hamlet of around 150 households, is one of the closest habitations to India’s border with China in eastern Ladakh. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi met recently in Moscow to reduce the tension.
According to a joint press statement about the meeting, the two leaders had a “frank and constructive discussion on the developments in the India-China border areas as well as on India-China relations.”
“The two ministers agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes,” it said.
But, according to the villagers, there is little evidence of disengagement on the ground.
Over the past week, Indian troops have continued to build-up along the border. A convoy of Indian Army vehicles has continued to bring supplies and ammunition to troops camped in posts along the border, and around 100 diggers have been brought in for the construction of roads and buildings, to further secure India’s position along the border.
“It is very clear that both sides are planning to stay there for winter; they seem to be anticipating that there will be no diplomatic outcome,” said Manoj Joshi, a security expert at the Observer Research Foundation.
This week, the villagers of Chushul have continued their non-stop efforts to bring supplies to the troops on Black Top, according to The Guardian.
There is no road access to the mountain ridges that have become the new frontline. “The area where the recent face-off took place is yet to have a road, let alone the infrastructure,” said Tsering. “How long will the Army keep supplies going like this?”
“The new places where China has engaged the Indian army don’t have proper living conditions. The army is being put up in tents. I do not know how they are going to build infrastructure good enough to live, when there is no road,” Konchak Tsepel, another villager, said.