3 stag­gered clashes took place in Gal­wan Val­ley

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTSPOTLIGH­T - Rahul Singh let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

THE FIRST WAVE OF FIGHT­ING ERUPTED AF­TER COLONEL B SAN­TOSH BABU LED A SQUAD OF 30 SOL­DIERS TO A LO­CA­TION NEAR PP14 TO VER­IFY IF THE CHI­NESE SOL­DIERS HAD RE­MOVED SOME OF THE IN­STAL­LA­TIONS THEY HAD ERECTED

NEWDELHI:De­tails emerg­ing from the de­brief­ing of In­dian sol­diers in­volved in the bru­tal Gal­wan Val­ley skir­mish shine fresh light on the hero­ism of out­num­bered In­dian sol­diers who fought off nu­mer­i­cally su­pe­rior ri­vals, string to­gether the tac­tics of China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army and pro­vide a clearer pic­ture of how the clash un­folded on June 15, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with de­vel­op­ments said on Sun­day.

The seven-hour deadly con­flict -- in­volv­ing three stag­gered clashes -- along the un­de­fined Line of Ac­tual Con­trol (LAC) in east­ern Ladakh saw the In­dian sol­diers put up a fierce fight against Chi­nese troops who had been pulled out of an­other sec­tor and freshly de­ployed on the dis­puted border to carry out the pre­med­i­tated at­tack at a time when a de-es­ca­la­tion plan was be­ing im­ple­mented, said one of the per­sons cited above, ask­ing not to be iden­ti­fied. There was no of­fi­cial word from the army on the new de­tails of the clash.

The Gal­wan Val­ley skir­mish re­sulted in the deaths of 20 In­dian sol­diers, and the Chi­nese army pos­si­bly suf­fered more than twice the ca­su­al­ties, as stated by Union min­is­ter Gen­eral VK Singh (retd) in a TV in­ter­view on Satur­day.

It was the first deadly con­flict be­tween In­dian and Chi­nese sol­diers along the LAC in 45 years.

The first wave of fight­ing erupted at around 6pm af­ter Colonel B San­tosh Babu, the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the 16 Bi­har, led a squad of around 30 sol­diers to a lo­ca­tion near Pa­trol Point 14 (PP14) to ver­ify if the Chi­nese sol­diers had re­moved some of the in­stal­la­tions they had erected in the area, af­ter an un­der­stand­ing was reached at a meet­ing be­tween se­nior mil­i­tary com­man­ders on June 6, said the first per­son cited above.

The squad, how­ever, found that the tents and an ob­ser­va­tion post were still in­tact and the Chi­nese sol­diers had not re­treated.

The num­ber of Chi­nese troops at this lo­ca­tion was around 20, in­clud­ing their com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, he said.

The In­dian squad con­fronted the Chi­nese troops but the lat­ter re­fused to re­move their in­stal­la­tions and va­cate the area, lead­ing to a scuf­fle in which Colonel Babu was pushed around, the per­son said. The man­han­dling of the colonel en­raged the In­dian troops who thrashed the Chi­nese sol­diers and forced them to re­treat to­wards PP14, a sec­ond per­son said. Babu and his men burnt the Chi­nese tents and dis­man­tled the ob­ser­va­tion post that was within the In­dian side of the LAC.

“The In­dian squad found some­thing was amiss as the Chi­nese colonel and the troops they had con­fronted min­utes ago were to­tally un­fa­mil­iar. Ri­val sol­diers pa­trolling the same ar­eas can recog­nise each other. Th­ese were new faces. The Chi­nese PLA had sent in sol­diers from some other area to carry out a pre-planned as­sault that would soon un­fold,” he said.

Sol­diers fa­mil­iar with each other are less likely to en­gage in a bru­tal con­flict like the one that would play out in the dark a cou­ple of hours later, he said. “The wily tac­tics of the Chi­nese were at play and Babu sensed it right away,” he added.

The In­dian squad called in for re­in­force­ments and de­cided to pa­trol up to PP14 to check what the Chi­nese troops were up to and if they had pulled back to their side of LAC. Now in com­mand of around 80 sol­diers, in­clud­ing a few of­fi­cers, Babu led the squad right up to PP14 where the Chi­nese sol­diers had gath­ered in large num­bers, taken van­tage po­si­tions and armed them­selves with stones, iron rods and nail­stud­ded clubs, the first per­son said.

The In­dian squad would soon face off with around 250 ri­val sol­diers who were fully pre­pared for a dirty fight that night.

“The sec­ond round of fight­ing be­gan here. Babu and two oth­ers were fa­tally hit by Chi­nese sol­diers and they fell into the river. The Chi­nese may not have known that they had struck the In­dian com­mand­ing of­fi­cer,” he said.

How­ever, the mo­ment the In­dian sol­diers re­alised that Babu had fallen, they fought against the Chi­nese sol­diers with all their might and killed 16 of them and in­flicted life-threat­en­ing in­juries on scores of oth­ers, the per­son said. Com­mand­ing of­fi­cers in the army are re­garded “father fig­ures” who com­mand im­mense re­spect and loy­alty. In­dia suf­fered all of its 20 ca­su­al­ties in the sec­ond of fight­ing.

A lull in fight­ing al­lowed both sides to call for re­in­force­ments be­fore the sol­diers en­gaged in the fi­nal wave of fight­ing that in­volved around 600 sol­diers on both sides, with the Chi­nese PLA de­ploy­ing more than 400 troops in that skir­mish, the per­son said.

The bod­ies of the troops who per­ished in the skir­mish were ex­changed the next day. The In­dian sol­diers were car­ry­ing weapons and am­mu­ni­tion but did not open fire as they were fol­low­ing border agree­ments be­tween the two coun­tries, the gov­ern­ment said last week, fol­low­ing a political con­tro­versy over whether the In­dian sol­diers were car­ry­ing weapons that could have been used to de­fend them­selves.

Apart from 16 Bi­har, the In­dian sol­diers in­volved in the clash were from 3 Pun­jab, 3 Medium Reg­i­ment and 81 Field Reg­i­ment.

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