Soldiers serving in the world’s highest battleground, Siachen, could soon be provided with special outfits that are made in India. This would include special jackets, boots, trousers, sleeping bags and other extreme winter clothing items which will help the army men to battle temperatures which go up to minus 55 degree Celsius. At present most of these outfits are imported from countries like Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Canada, Singapore, Norway and UK, with most of them made in China.
The Indian Army has lost about 869 of its soldiers since 1984 when in captured the Siachen glacier, a highly disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Now as a part of the Make in India initiative, Indian suppliers have for the first time given their samples to the army for trials in five items of Siachen and Super High Altitude clothing. Soldiers deployed beyond an altitude of 14,000 feet — in Siachen, Kargil, Drass, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim —are issued Siachen and Super High Altitude clothing which consists of 55 items.
The Army’s annual requirement is around 27000+ one year’s reserves ad there is a current shortfall of about 5 to 10% which is replenished from reserves. The main issues besides this deficit is the problems related to import of Siachen clothing, which has a long gestation period and fluctuating forex rates add to the woes. According to a defence ministry official, the biggest issue is the China factor. Most of these items use bird feathers as a filling. Even though the items are certified for avian flu, there can never be surety about the Chinese products. Despite the quality check, there are apprehensions of bringing infection to India.
As per defence ministry sources, the impetus to the indigenous making came from a meeting last February with the Indian Technical textile Association (ITTA), the apex body representing technical textile manufacturers in the country. Army had asked Indian manufacturers to bid for supplying the imported items while displaying all the items of Siachen clothing at an exhibition-cum-seminar in Delhi. The event was supported by the Ministry of Textiles and attended by Defence Forces, DRDO, DGQA and the domestic Industry.