Force Magazine

Life Savers

Animal transport is a crucial lifeline for ITBP troops deployed at a high altitude near the China border

By Commandant Sudhakar Natarajan

A dedicated animal transport (AT) wing is an inbuilt part of all border guarding units of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) tasked to operate in high altitude sub-zero terrain for supply of ammunition, rations, water and other stores. The logistic convoys, consisting of ponies and troops, have a very pivotal role in keeping the AOM (axis of maintenance) alive in areas where no roads exist.

Animal transport

Not much is written or known about the excruciatingly tough task performed by the ponies of ITBP in the Ladakh, Kumaon, Garhwal, Himachal Pradesh and Northeastern areas bordering with China.

When air support fails due to bad weather, it is the AT boys who get going to ensure that the troops at the border outpost (BOP) get their rations to sustain themselves in this unforgiving terrain and are replenished with ammunition to guard the icy borders. All air drops at the dropping zone (DZ) are collected by these ponies. Fresh drinking water, in freezing cold desert terrain, is worth its weight in gold, and the ITBP AT ensures this basic necessity is satiated to sustain troops at windswept BOPs.

The ponies are the virtual lifeline for ITBP troops at the borders. When border incidents take place, it is the AT that saves the day for India, by ensuring that the troops engaged in eye-ball-to-eye-ball vigil, had a steady supply of water, rations and ammunitions to secure the borders. Without ponies, the ITBP troops would not have been able to pull off the sustained effort during this situation due to the fact that air support could not have been used for logistics which would have been deemed as an air violation and all civilian pony owners had migrated to lower altitudes. ITBP ponies and AT troops ensured that our soldiers were provided with the wherewithal to tenaciously hold ground in the desolate wind-swept terrain.

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