Indian Army - the new calling for Ladakhi youth

October 10th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by IANS  

Leh (Jammu and Kashmir), Oct 10 (IANS) The Indian Army has become the new calling for Ladakhi youths, who are skilled mountain warriors and are unsurpassed in high altitude operations. These youths flock in large numbers to enrol in the Ladakh Scouts, which was raised in 1963 but was conferred full regimental status only in 2000 after its personnel had played a stellar role in the Kargil conflict a year earlier.Besides tourism, which is a major source of livelihood for Ladakhi youth, the Indian Army is their new found passion.

“The Ladakh Scouts was granted regiment status after the 1999 Kargil conflict. Since then more than 4,000 Ladakhi youths have signed up in the five battalions of the regiment,” one of its senior officers told IANS.

“Every year we recruit nearly 400 Ladakhi youths and this number is huge, considering the small population of Ladakh. On an average, one person from each family in Ladakh serves in the army,” the officer added.

The Ladakh Scouts, also known as the Snow Tigers, is one of the most highly decorated units of the Indian Army with more than 300 gallantry awards to its credit. Not only has this unit served the nation by guarding the high altitude and inhospitable borders but has also helped directly or indirectly in rebuilding the shattered economy of Ladakh, which had suffered badly due to three wars with Pakistan and one war with China.

“I am very proud to be the part of the Indian Army. In Ladakh, youths do not have many options and they either become tour operators or taxi drivers. But by joining the army I have got a sense of respect,” a young Ladakhi Scout said, preferring not to be named.

The Ladakh Scouts was raised in 1963 in the wake of the 1962 debacle against China. It was the first unit of the Indian Army to successfully launch a counter strike against Pakistani incursions in Kargil’s Batalik sector in 1999.

In August 1999 the Indian Army evolved a multi-pronged strategy to combat terrorism in the Kashmir region. It included increased recruitment of Kashmiri youths, strengthening of the Ladakh Scouts by merging it with the army as a regiment, and setting up a new corps headquarters at Leh, the capital of Ladakh, the Buddhist-majority region in Jammu and Kashmir state.

The central idea of the strategy was to strengthen the Indian Army’s presence on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan with the additional deployment of “early warning troops” such as the Ladakh Scouts.

Personnel of the Ladakh Scouts are deployed in glacial areas like Karu, Nubra, Leh and Partapur.

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