The Chinese have changed the rules of engagement at the Line of Actual Control by using crude weapons such as iron rods, stones and sticks with nails and barbed wire on against Indian soldiers.
It is now time for India to rethink the rules of engagement and give it back to the bully. This is because China understands only one language — the language of a bully.
All Indian soldiers at the LAC should be allowed to use firearms when needed instead of being turned into a central police force by equipping them with lightweight riot gear. It is shocking that the Army also plans to equip its troops guarding the LAC with spiked club, as the report mentions.
This is a defeatist mindset and we would never allow this to happen on any other border. The Chinese should have been taught not to mess with Indian soldiers the day they became overtly aggressive the first time they did in the recent years. To see a nuclear-armed nation prepare itself to fight another nuclear power with stones and clubs is rather sad.
If sticks and riot gears are what is preferred, then hand over the forward patrolling completely to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Army can be deployed deeper and come in with the firepower when needed.
Change in Chinese tactic
When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi questioned why the soldiers were not carrying firearms, two days after the clash at Galwan Valley resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted in response: “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. Long-standing practice (as per 1996 & 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during faceoffs,”
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. Long-standing practice (as per 1996 & 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during faceoffs. https://t.co/VrAq0LmADp
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) June 18, 2020
Rahul Gandhi has also tweeted back to him.
It’s sad to see senior GOI ministers reduced to lying in order to protect the PM.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 19, 2020
I am not getting into the debate of whether all Indian soldiers had loaded rifles or not, but the entire idea behind not using firearms was to avoid an escalation at the LAC, where troops often come face-to-face during patrols along the imaginary border line.
Military officials said that while the Chinese earlier used to engage in jostling and pushing, over the last few years, they have started pelting Indian soldiers with stones. It’s the same tactic that Chinese soldiers resorted to on 5 May when they attacked a group of Indian personnel.
There were no fatalities, although several soldiers were seriously wounded and had to be admitted to hospitals, with some even brought to Delhi.
The situation on 15 June, however, took an ugly turn when the Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar, Col Santosh Babu, and 19 other soldiers were killed in a similar attack.
This is perhaps the first time that a Commanding Officer of an infantry unit of the Army lost his life to medieval weapons at the hands of the enemy.
This calls for a change
What the Chinese did was barbaric. Army personnel on the ground are seething with anger, and one officer told me that had Col Santosh Babu known that the Chinese were armed, he would have followed a different procedure.
The practice of not opening firearms draws its inspiration from the 1996 agreement between India and China, which says that “neither side shall open fire or conduct blast operations within 2 km of the Line of Actual Control”.
Though the aim was to ensure that there is no violence and subsequent escalation, the tragic death of 20 soldiers changes everything.
It is important now to hit back at the aggressor. Indian soldiers should be given the powers to defend themselves against any hostility.
It speaks about the discipline of the Army that the soldiers did not open fire despite barbaric behaviour by the Chinese.
However, when a menacing mob armed with medieval weapons comes running towards you to kill and maim, it is better to open fire. Even the Army Act, 1950 allows Indian soldiers to open fire to protect their lives.
Views are personal.