It’s surprising for a country that has the world’s ‘fourth largest army’ and also a long, sensitive border along the world’s highest mountain range. Yet, the fact is it took something on the scale of Kargil before the need to have troops trained for high-altitude combat dawned on everyone. At Kargil, the paucity of battalions specialised in mountain warfare meant India started with a severe handicap. That chastening experience has now borne fruit: in the shape of the high-altitude commando school at Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.
Set up in double quick time, the Parvat Ghatak School or the High-Altitude Commando School is the highest of its kind in the world at 15,000 feet. With the mercury dipping to minus 20 degrees, the army could not have chosen a tougher terrain to impart training. Here, only the toughest can survive. Any kind of movement for the uninitiated is laborious-breathing is an exercise in itself. Traversing in two-and-a-half feet of snow by foot is next to impossible. It is here, at Pemgarh, barely 2 km from the India-China border, that troops get a feel of what it might be like in a real combat situation in theatres like Kargil.