India is revamping its defence strategy in three broad ways – processes, procurement and partnerships. It is integrating its armed forces, upgrading weapons and strengthening its military alliances
India and China were on the brink of war in late August, a senior Indian Army commander said on Wednesday of the situation in eastern Ladakh after Indian troops took commanding positions atop some half a dozen peaks in the ranges along the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake.
The lake has been one of the major friction points in the tense 10-month long eyeball to eyeball confrontation between India and China. The troops of the two sides are currently disengaging from the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso following an agreement signed on 10 February.
Recounting the sequence of events, Lieutenant General Y.K. Joshi, General Officer Commander in Chief of the Indian Army’s Northern Command said that the situation on 31 August last year “extremely, extremely tense,” when the Indian Army outsmarted Chinese troops who were trying to secure the heights of the Kailash range on the south bank of Pangong Tso.
“Galwan had happened, the redlines had been drawn and we had been absolutely given a free hand to conduct operations the way we wanted,” Joshi told CNN News 18 channel in an interview. He was referring to a violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in June last year at Galwan in which 20 Indian soldiers and some Chinese soldiers were killed. The Indian government had then allowed Indian troops to open fire in self defence should the need arise. Prior to that, Indian troops though they carried weapons were not permitted to fire as per protocols evolved in talks with China to avoid casualties.
With Indian troops and tanks at commanding positions on the peaks of the Kailash ranges, Chinese tanks had started rolling up the slopes of the same mountains, on 31 August, Joshi said. It would have been “a no brainer” to fire on the oncoming Chinese tanks, Joshi said adding: “ That was the time war was averted. We were absolutely on the edge, we were absolutely on the brink” of war,” he said.
India and China fought their only war in 1962. There have been many confrontations and some clashes since then with the Galwan clash seen as the first with casualties since 1975.
When asked about the number of casualties on the Chinese side at Galwan, Joshi said: “I don’t want to make an estimate” but added that the Indian Army had seen Chinese troops ferrying more than 60 of their men on stretchers. He however clarified that he could not say whether they were injured or dead Chinese personnel.
Last week, the Russian news agency TASS had reported that the Chinese had suffered 45 casualties in the Galwan clash with India. China has not officially put out any numbers of their dead.