If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
To understand the entire incident in its correct perspective a little information on the terrain, background and the events of the scuffle (fight) between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley of Eastern Ladakh on 15/16 June 2020 is imperative.
Galwan in Kashmiri dialect means “Strong Man” or a Pehelwan (Wrestler). The river emanates at AKSAI Chin and flows East to West for 80 Kms through gorges of high mountains at 17,000 feet. It joins Shyok River in the Shyok Valley. The Galwan River valley is named after Gulam Rasool Galwan of Leh, who, as a young boy, had accompanied the British expeditions in Himalayas as a guide in the late 19th Century. In one of the expeditions in 1899, led by Lt Col Charles Murray to Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan, the party lost its way due to bad weather. It was young Gulam Rasool Galwan, who found the way through this river valley. Thus, the river was named Galwan after him.
The Galwan River Valley was the flash point of 1962 War. In its 1959 claim-line China had claimed the entire valley upto the confluence of Shyok – Galwan Rivers. The Valley became a flashpoint after China constructed a road between Xinjiang and Tibet, without India’s consent. The highway is now known as G219. After building the road, the Chinese laid a claim to the area, first in 1959.
The valley was defended by a company of Gorkha Regiment of the Indian Army in 1962 after China had constructed the G219 through Aksai Chin. Suddenly this Gorkha locality, was surrounded by PLA on 06 July 1962. The brave Gorkha troops remained cut off for three months. On 04 October 1962, a Company of 5 JAT was sent to reinforce the Gorkha Company by the Indian Army. PLA fired on this company and killed 36 men of the JAT company. This was the start point of 1962 war.
Ever since 1962, the Galwan Valley has been under the occupation of China. Protective Patrol – 14 is the only point in the mouth of Galwan valley that India controls, is on the LAC. The significance of this PP-14 is that it screens Chinese peep into Shyok River confluence with Galwan River.
India has recently built a bridge over this confluence. Besides, a Link Road to PP-14 is being constructed from this bridge on the DSDBO Road (Darbuk – Shyok – Daulat Beg Oldie), which is probably the bone of contention.
It must be noted that LAC / border with China is not marked. Galwan Valley had been on the Eastern side of LAC, which is under Chinese control. And this has been the case for the last 58 years. Galwan Valley was lost during the 1962 conflict and it has been status quo since then. As of date, India has not surrendered its claim either on Aksai Chin or Galwan Valley. It has only said the obvious reality that LAC since 1962 is well under Indian Control. And it includes PP-14.
The significance of Galwan Valley lies in the fact that India had constructed a road to DBO from Shyok and Darbuk. It is 255 Kms long and it has strategic importance of logistics support and also switching of forces to DBO. The point of issue is not this but the link road being built to PP-14. It was the 12 – 14 Kms link from this Bridge to Protective Patrol Point 14 (PP 14). This point is at the LAC and is under Indian Control since 1962. The significance of this Link Road is that it is a pincer aimed at the Galwan Valley which could further be linked to a Chinese Road going to China’s Western Highway (G219) passing through Aksai Chin. Chinese think that India could launch an offensive towards Aksai Chin using Galwan Valley.
PP-14 obstructs their direct view of the Indian side and eventually the Indian build up, if any. Even China has built a road from Aksai Chin to this Valley.
On 06 June 2020 , an agreement was reached between the Chinese and Indian commanders (Major General Liyu Lin Commander af South Xinjiang Theatre of China and Lt Gen Harinder Singh of 14 Corps of India) to appropriately withdraw from present locations. India was to fall back 1.5 Km Westward and China by 2.5 Kms Eastward. The disengagement was to be completed by 15 June 2020. Indian troops before pulling out wanted to ensure that Chinese too had pulled out.
The present crisis of 15 June 2020 was due to Chinese attempt to come upto PP-14. In fact they had created a tented camp below it around 10-12 June 2020. This camp was forcibly removed by India on 12/13 June 2020. Probably, some fatalities were suffered by PLA in this action.
This perhaps had enraged the Chinese and again by 14 June 2020, they set up a fresh tented camp. This was detected by India on 15 June 2020 and it led to a deadly scuffle.
Information available from various accounts suggests that a patrol of 10 men under a Major from 4 Mahar and 16 Bihar was sent to ascertain this fact. They found the tents (un-occupied) were intact and had not been removed as agreed to earlier and they burnt it. As they were returning they were surrounded and captured because Chinese were fully armed.
As soon as CO 16 Bihar, Col. Santosh Babu learnt this, he rushed to the spot with 30 men to negotiate their release. It is learnt that Chinese were on a higher ground and Indian patrol party was slowly climbing. We must know that at 15,000 feet the foot movement is very sluggish and slow. One cannot rush and climb. One loses breath. Also, the track was so narrow that one could only move in a single file — one man behind the other. This is why the road to PP-14 was constructed.
As the Col Santosh’s party was some 60-100 meters from Chinese tents (where they were holding our men), they shouted at him to come alone if he wanted to negotiate about the patrol. Col. Santosh Babu agreed and moved up with 2 Men. It may be noted that CO and his two men were unarmed, as is the norm in all such flag meetings. After reaching they had heated exchange for 4-5 minutes but Chinese gave in and agreed to withdraw.
As soon as the CO and his men turned, Chinese attacked him with nailed clubs and all the three fell badly wounded. Seeing this rest of the CO party radioed it to the base and charged towards the Chinese. A hand to hand fight began. Indians had bayonets charged to rifles as an answer to Chinese nailed clubs and iron rods. It may be noted that Indians are well trained in close combat and bayonet fighting.
In the meanwhile, Chinese reinforcements of 400 men joined but so did 200 men from 16 Bihar and adjoining units. Thus, it became a joint operation of mixed troops from Artillery, Mahar and Punjab Regiments. Accounts now filtering out is that 16 Bihar men and other Indian troops had gone berserk. The Ghatak platoons (Commandos) of other battalions had joined in. Chinese were running helter skelter. The troops were from 16 Bihar, 3 Punjab, 4 Mahar, 3 Med Regt and 181 Field Regt. It was a joint operation.
Though India declared 20 dead including Col. Santosh Babu, China did not give out any casualties, but they too suffered heavily. Global Times claimed that it did not give out number of casualties because “it did not want confrontational sentiments to escalate.” This is a typical lie of a Communist regime.
Some Indian estimates put the Chinese casualties at 43. This they estimate from the helicopter trips coming to collect the casualties, which India had allowed. But American report from intercepts suggests that there were 35 dead, possibly a few officers including Cols and Majors. This does not include the soldiers who went down in the river when land slide took place. Therefore some estimates say that China suffered between 128 to 150 casualties. All this is possible because the soldiers pay with their lives on the borders. Galwan River episode is marked by the sacrifices of the soldiers. A grateful nation honours the Galwan Heroes of Night 15/16 June. Their raw courage displayed against a well prepared enemy must rule the Nation’s soul.
(1) THE GOVT HAS NOW PERMITTED THE TROOPS TO CARRY WEAPONS AND USE THEM ON THE LAC IF THE SITUATION WARRANTS.
(2) THE LINK RAOD FROM DSDBO ROAD TO PP-14 HAS BEEN COMPLETED DURING THE CLASH ITSELF.