Changing climate new adversary of India's armed forces

Changing climate new adversary of India's armed forces

"While global warming will have common effect of more pressure on the logistics and increased wear and tear of weapons, it will also have force-specific impact. The government needs to involve armed forces in studying its reasons and impact," a senior armed forces official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau which have large-scale military presence are among the areas most susceptible to climate change effects. The rapid melting of glaciers in the region would call for new deployment plans for the Indian Army manning the Siachen Glacier.

"Demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier is out of question; so, its accelerated meltdown will call for coming out with a new deployment plan," said a senior Indian Army official, wishing to remain unnamed as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The Indian and Pakistani forces have been standing eyeball to eyeball since 1984 at the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battlefield at 22,000 feet, where guns have been silent since a ceasefire in 2003.

Occupying the 76-km-long glacier, which has been melting faster due to global warming, is a huge logistic exercise and the changing climate will only increase the pressure on logistics.

According to a recent study "Security Implications of Climate Change for India" published by think tank Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), artillery gun platforms in the high altitude region that have become ice pillars would melt rapidly, making redeployment "a necessary but demanding task".

"Unexpected melting (in the Himalayan region) would make troop movements extremely dangerous and the dumping zones and (makeshift) helipads may crumble with rapid snowmelt," the report says.

"Besides triggering flash floods and a slew of disasters downstream, the melting would also result in severing of communication lines," the army official added. The Indian Navy is also concerned about the way changed climate patterns will shape the Indian Ocean region, creating issues of maritime boundaries, exclusive economic zone, port operations, shallow water operations for submarines and naval tactics.

"Climate change will alter the battlefields with rising water level submerging low-lying islands, the change in water temperature of a place affecting the sea flora and fauna and also affecting the deployment tactics for submarines," said a senior official of the Indian Navy. "The melting of snow in the Arctic Ocean may benefit China by giving them access to the Pacific Ocean and to warm ports," he added.

The Indian and Chinese navies have been trying to outdo each other for greater influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which is of utmost strategic importance to them for security of energy supplies. Climate change will also change the dynamics of the IOR.

"Take the example of the Maldives, a low-lying small island ecosystem. It is vulnerable to climate change and may be submerged due to rising sea level. Given the friendly bilateral relations between India and the Maldives, in all likelihood India will have to absorb many of the displaced Maldivians," the official added. Military aviation will also be affected by the change in climate patterns as the performance of the aerial platforms and munitions varies with weather conditions.

Weather support is critical for all aerial operations, reconnaissance, para-dropping missions, transport operations, search and rescue and combating. Climate change is predicted to increase the severity and frequency of extreme weather events such as storms, which will have their effect on aviation.