A year after Indian and Chinese soldiers were caught in a tense border standoff in Ladakh’s Chumar sector, it has emerged that the Indian Army was prepared to use its special forces and had moved its toughest fighting men close to the incursion site, signalling a hardened posture along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Army had mobilised commandos from the elite 9 Para (Special Forces) last September, asking them to be on standby in case there was a further flare-up in hostilities as more than 2,000 soldiers of both armies were locked in the standoff, said a senior officer familiar with the deployment.
The para commandos, whose home base is in Udhampur, were positioned barely five km from the disputed LAC to mount a swift response and provide backup to the Indian troops. “The Army had seriously considered the possibility of launching special forces had the situation worsened. It wasn’t a faceoff involving 15 or 20 soldiers…the troop buildup was of a worrying proportion,” he said.
Dominating the area in which the three-week faceoff took place – Pt 4991 - allows control over 480 sq km of territory. “When special forces are brought into the picture, it indicates the Army wants to hit back swiftly and effectively,” said Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia, a paratrooper and former director general of military operations.
An Indian Air Force pilot who helped troops hold their ground by flying basic supplies in 32 sorties was awarded a gallantry medal, rarely given during such border squabbles.
The LAC has remained largely quiet during the last one year except a squabble in Burtse area in September, but a flare-up was avoided as both armies stuck to protocols for maintaining border peace. Tensions along the border eased after two flag meetings at Daulet Beg Oldie and Chushul on September 15.
“Border personnel meetings are taking place quite frequently since the Chumar incident – on an average once in 10 days. It has helped prevent things from spinning out of control,” said another officer. The Chumar standoff began on September 10, 2014 when Indian forces found that Chinese troops had deployed heavy machinery to construct a temporary road inside Indian territory.
New Delhi and Beijing had signed a new boundary pact in October 2013 to ensure peace and stability along the LAC.