Scorching heat is proving a bigger enemy than Pakistan to Indian troops hunkered down along the borders in Rajasthan.
"The heat is a killer," said Namdev Yadav, an army sergeant who had stopped on Monday to quench his thirst at Tanot, a village outpost in the middle of nowhere about 20 km from the border.
"During the day, it's so hot you can't sleep. It's the worst place to be on earth," he said between long draughts from a clear plastic bottle he had filled from a welcome drinking water tap.
The Thar Desert forms a 104,000 square km wilderness of sand dunes and silt-covered valleys dotted with scrub and with few trees for shade.
First they shivered in the freezing winter desert cold, now they are sweltering in summer temperatures that regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius in May and June and can hit 50 Celsius.
The past two weeks may have brought an easing of tensions between the two nations, but there no letup for the many tens of thousands of troops deployed in the state.
A warm wind can bring relief from the beating sun, but it whips up a fine sand that fills the nostrils and stings the eyes. Monsoon rains are two to three weeks away, local herdsmen said.
"It is difficult but you just have to survive," said Srirang, a 25- year-old artillery officer from Maharashtra.
"The evenings are generally pleasant, but during the day you just keep yourself occupied and try not to think about it," he said.
A defence ministry spokesman said no figures were available of cases of heat stroke among the troops.
"No significant or noticeable illness has happened. Our forces are quite fit to endure these conditions," he said.
Drink, Drink, Drink
Soldiers said the army had provided air coolers to bring a measure of ventilation to the canvas tents.
For others, the camouflage netting that covers their tanks, artillery pieces and mobile communications trucks are the sole respite from the sun.
Tanker trucks and army lorries loaded with large black plastic drums containing drinking water for the troops are a common sight on the bumpy roads leading to frontier areas of Rajasthan.
Even the most leisurely physical exertion in the heat of the Thar Desert saps strength and troops said they had been told to drink at least eight litres of water a day to replace lost body fluids and avoid heat exhaustion.
"People drink even more than that," said a 41- year-old sergeant from Punjab. He said he had spent four years serving in Rajasthan and was now acclimatised.
"When you feel thirsty you drink and wherever you see water you go for it."
Despite the discomforts, soldiers said they had little choice but to follow orders, adapt and survive.
"Even if we say we don't like it, we have to do it," said Sube Singh, a 30-year-old soldier. "You can't all be stationed in Delhi."
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