What does the 2020 Galwan clash say about India and China? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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What does the 2020 Galwan clash say about India and China?

Jun 16, 2022 10:31 AM IST

Had Col Santosh Babu and his braves not retaliated to the PLA on patrolling point 14 in Galwan sector on June 15, 2020, the Chinese Army would have established an observation post monitoring Indian Army activities on DS-DBO road, a lifeline to highly sensitive DBO sector.

Before June 15, 2020, it was a standard operating procedure of the Chinese Army to first transgress across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh as evident in 2013 Depsang intrusions in Daulet Beg Oldi and then engage the Indian side in a never-ending diplomatic-military dialogue to resolve the boundary aggravation. In the meantime, the PLA would rapidly build the military infrastructure to feed the transgression and the land would be either be declared a buffer zone or be lost forever to the Indian side.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing troops in Ladakh after June 15, 2020 Galwan clash.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing troops in Ladakh after June 15, 2020 Galwan clash.

Similar Chinese tactics were evident in 2020 when the PLA exerted military pressure along the LAC, particularly in Galwan Valley on May 5 that year, in a bid to impose the India-rejected 1959 line in East Ladakh. While creating a false front on patrolling point 14 in Galwan sector, the Chinese PLA under instructions from the Central Military Commission headed by eternal leader Xi Jinping transgressed in the areas of Kugrang Nullah (patrolling point 15), Gogra-Hot Springs (patrolling point 17) and up to finger 4 on the north banks of Pangong Tso lake on May 17-18 by outflanking the deployed Indian Army units. Like in the past, Chinese PLA tore up the 1993-1996 border agreements and exercised might is a right doctrine with the Indian Army weighed down by bilateral diplomatic and military protocols. Till today, India is negotiating with China to remove forward deployments in the Kugrang heights, which is the shortest route from Gogra to Galwan and hence tactically important.

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The picture would have been much bleaker had Col Santosh Babu and his 19 braves not retaliated to the PLA transgression on June 15, 2020 and laid down their lives for India. On that day, if the 16 Bihar Commanding Officer had not pushed back the intruding PLA from setting up an observation post at patrolling point 14, the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road, military life-line, would have come under permanent observation of the Chinese and hence threatening the highly sensitive DBO sector and by military extrapolation the Siachen sector—which makes life uncomfortable for the PLA and its client Pakistan Army.

Indian Army bravehearts who were killed in action during clash with Chinese PLA on June 15, 2020.
Indian Army bravehearts who were killed in action during clash with Chinese PLA on June 15, 2020.

Like in 2017 Doklam face-off, Col Babu did not wait for decision from either Leh headquarters or DGMO in Delhi but decided to act at the spur of the moment to contain the Chinese. The sacrifice of the 16 Bihar CO has not gone in vain but shows the new resolve of India to take on the adversary head-on when it comes to national security. In many ways, Col Babu’s egged the Indian Army offensive, planned, and executed at the apex level, on the South banks of Pangong Tso on August 29-31, 2020. The South Pangong Tso offensive was an Indian payback on Chinese terms as the move made the entire Moldo-Spanggur Tso garrison of PLA under observation of the Indian Army sitting on Rechin-Rezang La heights. Despite the PLA threatening the Indian military with armor and artillery retaliation, the Indian Army did not back down but also fired a tank shot across the PLA armor to show their seriousness to take the battle to the enemy. It was only due to the South Pangong Tso offensive that the PLA was forced to negotiate on the north banks and vacate the fingers zone entirely. The day history is written about the Galwan Clash and the South Pangong Tso offensive after documents are de-classified, Indians will realize the strength of the political and military leadership at that time.

In India, it is often seen that intelligence and military officers behave like diplomats and the latter vice-versa because of which the Indian response was neither sharp nor precise to the adversary. The sacrifice of Col Santosh Babu and his braves showed that Chinese only understand the language of power and negotiations is seen as a sign of weakness by the wolf warriors of Middle-Kingdom.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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