Galwan clash hero Colonel Santosh Babu awarded Maha Vir Chakra posthumously
Colonel B Santosh Babu, 37, who was killed during the clash with Chinese soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in 2020, was on Tuesday posthumously awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for extraordinary courage and leadership, by President Ram Nath Kovind at an investiture ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. Babu’s widow, B Santoshi, and mother, B Manjula, received the award.
The President also awarded Vir Chakra (VrC) to five other Galwan braves who fought off numerically superior Chinese troops on June 15, 2020. Four of them were awarded the VrC posthumously. The MVC is India’s second-highest wartime gallantry award followed by the VrC.
The posthumous VrC awardees are Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren (16 Bihar), Havildar K Palani (81 Field) Naik Deepak Singh (16 Bihar) and Sepoy Gurtej Singh (3 Punjab). Havildar Tejinder Singh (3 Medium) was the only living recipient of the wartime honour. The brutal clash pushed the India-China bilateral relationship to a breaking point.
The wartime honours given on Tuesday were announced by the government on Republic Day 2021.
Babu’s citation said: “Undaunted by the violent and aggressive action by overwhelming strength of enemy soldiers, the officer in true spirit of service before self, continued to resist the enemy’s attempt to pushback Indian troops. Despite being grievously injured, Colonel Babu led from the front with absolute command and control despite hostile conditions to deter the vicious enemy attack at his position.”
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the seven-hour deadly conflict near Patrolling Point (PP) 14 in Galwan Valley, where outnumbered Indian troops inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Apart from 16 Bihar; soldiers from 3 Punjab, 3 Medium Regiment and 81 Field Regiment were involved in what was the first deadly conflict between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in more than five decades.
The first wave of fighting in Galwan Valley erupted around 6pm on June 15 after Colonel Babu led a squad of 30 soldiers to a location near PP-14 to verify if the PLA had removed some structures erected in the area despite an understanding reached on June 6 by top Indian and Chinese military commanders on a disengagement plan to cool border tensions.
The squad, however, found that a few tents and an observation post were still intact and the Chinese soldiers had not retreated from PP-14. The Indian soldiers confronted the Chinese troops, who refused to remove their installations and vacate the area, triggering a violent clash that involved more than 600 rival soldiers at its peak.
Reversing the trust deficit created by the Galwan clash has proved to be enormously hard. India and China have been locked in a standoff in the Ladakh sector for over 18 months, and are currently negotiating a withdrawal of troops and weapons from friction points on the disputed border.
India has deployed 50,000 to 60,000 troops and advanced weaponry in the Ladakh theatre to counter Chinese military buildup and the possibility of any misadventure by neighbour whose belligerent actions triggered the border standoff in early May 2020.
The PLA did not agree to suggestions made by the Indian Army at the 13th round of talks on October 10. The Indian Army said it made constructive suggestions for resolving the outstanding problems on LAC but the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals. China accused India of unreasonable and unrealistic demands in an unusually aggressive statement.
Military talks are unlikely to result in a breakthrough and only higher intervention can show the way to resolving the 18-month border crisis, experts have said. There is no end in sight to the standoff, with army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane stating on October 9 that if PLA is there to stay in the Ladakh theatre so is the Indian Army.