FREE­DOM OF AC­TION FOR COM­MAN­DERS AT THE LAC

The com­man­ders will no longer be bound by re­stric­tions on the use of firearms

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - FRONT PAGE - HT Corre­spon­dent letters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: A sig­nif­i­cant change in rules of en­gage­ment (ROE) by the In­dian Army fol­low­ing the Gal­wan Val­ley skir­mish that left 20 In­dian sol­diers dead gives “com­plete free­dom of ac­tion” to com­man­ders de­ployed along the con­tested LAC to “han­dle sit­u­a­tions at the tac­ti­cal level,” two se­nior of­fi­cers said on Saturday.

The com­man­ders will no longer be bound by re­stric­tions on the use of firearms.

sig­nif­i­cant change in rules of en­gage­ment (ROE) by the In­dian Army fol­low­ing the Gal­wan Val­ley skir­mish that left 20 In­dian sol­diers dead gives “com­plete free­dom of ac­tion” to com­man­ders de­ployed along the con­tested Line of Ac­tual Con­trol (LAC) to “han­dle sit­u­a­tions at the tac­ti­cal level,” two se­nior of­fi­cers said on Saturday on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The com­man­ders will no longer be bound by re­stric­tions on the use of firearms and will have full author­ity to re­spond to “ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tions” us­ing all the re­sources at their dis­posal, said an of­fi­cers cited above.

The ROE were amended af­ter In­dian and Chi­nese sol­diers en­gaged in their first deadly con­flict in 45 years in Gal­wan Val­ley on June 15, re­sult­ing in 20 In­dian deaths and sev­eral Chi­nese ca­su­al­ties.

In his re­marks dur­ing an all­party meet­ing on Fri­day, Prime Min­is­ter Narendra Modi said the army had been given the free­dom to take nec­es­sary steps along the bor­der and In­dia had con­veyed its po­si­tion (to China) through diplo­matic means.

“With the changes in the ROE, there’s noth­ing that lim­its the abil­ity of In­dian com­man­ders to take what­ever ac­tion they deem nec­es­sary on the LAC. ROE have been amended to ad­dress the bru­tal tac­tics be­ing em­ployed by Chi­nese troops,” said the sec­ond of­fi­cer cited above.

Changes in ROE were im­mi­nent af­ter a se­ries of vi­o­lent clashes along the bor­der, with the army fi­nally de­cid­ing not to re­strict the scope of re­sponse of its sol­diers af­ter the June 15 clash, the sec­ond of­fi­cer said.

“Two vi­o­lent clashes took place in Pan­gong Tso (May 5-6) and Gal­wan Val­ley (around midMay) be­fore the June 15 skir­mish in eastern Ladakh. On all oc­ca­sions, they came in huge num­bers and as­saulted our troops with iron roads and nail-stud­ded clubs. Our troops fought back fear­lessly but the ROE had to be re­vis­ited,” he said.

The gov­ern­ment said on Thurs­day that sol­diers in­volved in the June 15 clash with Chi­nese troops were car­ry­ing weapons and am­mu­ni­tion but did not open fire as they were fol­low­ing bor­der agree­ments be­tween the two coun­tries -- a re­mark that came in re­sponse to a ques­tion from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on whether the In­dian sol­diers were sent in “un­armed”.

“Let us get the facts straight. All troops on bor­der duty al­ways carry arms, es­pe­cially when leav­ing post. Those at Gal­wan on 15 June did so. [It is a] long­stand­ing prac­tice (as per 1996 & 2005 agree­ments) not to use firearms dur­ing face­offs,” ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter S Jais­hankar tweeted.

The bor­der agree­ments from 1996 and 2005 be­tween In­dia and China disal­low the use of firearms dur­ing face-offs. Ar­ti­cle 6 of the agree­ment on con­fi­dence­build­ing mea­sures in the mil­i­tary field along the LAC, signed by In­dia and China in Novem­ber 1996, states that both sides will not open fire or “con­duct blast op­er­a­tions or hunt with guns or ex­plo­sives within two kilo­me­ters from the Line of Ac­tual Con­trol”.

“Since sol­diers are al­lowed to carry weapons while pa­trolling LAC, it is in­her­ent that they can use firearms in un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tions like the at­tack in Gal­wan Val­ley,” said for­mer North­ern Army com­man­der Lieu­tenant Gen­eral BS Jaswal (retd).

WASEEM ANDRABI/HT

An of­fi­cial at a check­point near Ladakh on June 17.

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