Leadership in the Ladakh sector was of an eminently higher order than that displayed by commanders of IV Corps and 4 Division in Kameng. Even the Corps and Army Commanders, though less well-equipped for higher command, put up a better show, supporting commanders on the ground and showing a better understanding of the ground realities as well as logistics requirements.
Brigadier TN Raina, who commanded 114 Brigade, entrusted with defence of Ladakh and to implement the Forward Policy, was outstanding. The formation's infantry battalions set up isolated posts to establish India's sovereignty and lay claim to our territory in the following sectors: 14 Jammu and Kashmir Militia: Daulat Beg Oldi - Sultan Chushku, 5 Jat: Galwan and Chang Chenmo River valleys - Lukung, 1/8 Gorkha Rifles: Sirijap - Spanggur, 7 Jammu and Kashmir Militia: Dungti-Demchok.
These were manned by the proverbial penny packets ranging from 5 to 125 men. There was no artillery support. Personal orders issued by General Thapar, the then Army Chief, specified that these posts with little tactical value were to fight "till the last man, last round". These unfortunate orders caused avoidable casualties.
When the balloon went up on October 20, these brave men did just that in the face of overwhelming odds, taking a toll on the enemy before they were overrun or decimated. Very few made it back. By the 26th, all these posts had been eliminated. Now the army high command moved fast, reinforcing Ladakh with a divisional headquarters (the 3rd), two more infantry brigades (70 and 163), a field regiment (very inadequate fire support for a division-defended sector) and half a squadron of AMX light tanks.
Prelude to the Battle of Chushul
Brigadier TN Raina's (later Army Chief 1975-78) 114 Brigade consisting of 1 and 5 Jat, 13 Kumaon, 1/8 Gorkha Rifles, 38 Battery, 13 Field Regiment and the Himalayan Detachment, 20 Lancers was deployed to defend the Lukung-Chushul-Tsaka La sector in the second phase of the campaign.
A lull in the battle gave time to prepare defences. However, orders were received that forbid aggressive patrolling, raids, harassing artillery fire, spoiling or pre-emptive attacks - in short any aggressive action that might provoke the Chinese to launch an attack! Even registration of targets, an essential part of artillery preparations for fighting a defensive battle, were not to be carried out. Just shows what sort of delusions our higher authorities had even after the all-out Chinese attack! Anyway, Brigadier Raina, his staff and officers and men soon got down to the task of preparations. Chushul and its all-important airfield were the formation's ground of vital importance. Approaches to the airfield from Spanggur Gap were to be denied.
Accordingly, dominant features flanking the Gap, like Gurung and Magar Hills and Rezang La, were to be held as the forward line of defence. Troops were to inflict maximum casualties on the enemy and then withdraw to depth positions west of Chushul valley.
The plan seemed contradictory in conventional military terms. If these were the main positions, the troops should've been ordered to hold ground and fight. In the event of these being delaying positions, then this line should've been thinly held. However, the plan took into account the peculiar requirements of the situation. The necessity was to contest the Chinese claim line that lay along the designated forward defences. The stage was now set for the heroic battles of Gurung Hill and Rezang La.
3 Jat medical camp
3 Jat, the indomitable battalion, is as compassionate in peacetime as it is valorous and fighting-fit on the battlefield. The battalion recently organised a three-day medical camp from November 16 in the remote Machhedi block of Billawar tehsil in Kathua district where it is deployed on counter-insurgency operations.
Maj Gen G Sankaranarayanan, GOC, 29 (Gurj) Infantry Division and the unit's brigade commander, Brigadier NS Raja Subramani, SM, were present on the occasion and gifted wheelchairs and crutches to the needy patients. Medical benefits and specialised treatment were made available to 2,500 patients.
The aim of holding the camp was to spread awareness about basic cleanliness and healthcare issues, besides screening and early detection of lifestyle diseases, malnutrition, cataract and diabetes. Organised under the auspices of the Army's long running 'Operation Sadbhavna', such provision of basic facilities goes a long way towards achieving the objectives of the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign in J&K.
Shortage of medicines at Command Hospital, Chandimandir
There seems to be a sudden and severe shortage of common medicines like Shellcal, Omiprezol, Tregabun, Contiflo etc at Command Hospital, Chandimandir. One presumes that the authorities are well aware of the situation and such shortage will soon be a thing of the past.