India on 21 June revised the rules of engagement with Chinese troops along the entire stretch of the 3,488-km long border. The government has given the Indian Army a go-ahead to respond appropriately to any provocation in the future.
In a fallout of the 15 June violent faceoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control (LoAC), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in his Sunday meeting with Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs, approved of the new tactical approach, sources said. Singh reviewed the situation in eastern Ladakh ― a day before his departure on a three-day visit to Moscow for ceremonies to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany in the Second World War.
The new tactical approach of the Indian Army may include staggered movement of patrols in key areas of the LoAC besides holding some high position or feature to give Indian troops a tactical advantage.
The Indian Army now has the freedom to deal suitably with any aggression by China along the LoAC, the sources said. This could imply that Indian troops will no longer be bound by the long-held practice of not using firearms in faceoffs. According to the terms of an agreement signed in 1996, it was agreed that “Neither side shall open fire or hunt with guns or explosives within 2 km from the line of actual control.”
During the 15 June violent faceoff in the Galwan region of Ladakh, Chinese troops attacked an Indian army group with stones besides clubs and rods wrapped with barb wire. There were also sticks embedded with nails that were used against the Indian troops.
India lost 20 of its soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash while China’s casualty figure was 50 ― dead and injured included, with 18 permanently disabled due to fractures sustained in the neck and spinal cord.
The accounts of the attack drew questions from various quarters as to why the Indian soldiers were “unarmed.” Indian foriegn minister S Jaishankar last week in a Twitter post said: “Let us get the facts straight. All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving post. Those at Galwan on 15 June did so. Long-standing practice (as per 1996 & 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during faceoffs.“
India has already put all troops along the LoAC on high alert as well as Indian Air Force stations close to the borders with China. Reinforcements have been sent to areas seen as sensitive with orders to be “extra vigilant.” The Indian Air Force has also moved a sizeable number of its frontline Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar, Mirage 2000 aircraft and Apache attack helicopters to several key air bases including Leh and Srinagar in the last five days. India is to hold ground and not cede territory to the Chinese, a second person familiar with the matter said adding New Delhi had no doubts about whether the LoAC lay.
In his remarks during an all-party meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the Indian Army had been given the freedom to take necessary steps along the border and that India had informed China of this decision through diplomatic means.
The clash in Galwan Valley, seen as the worst flare-up of tensions between the two sides in 45 years has significantly frayed ties between the two countries. Another 76 Indian soldiers were also injured.
A statement from the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday had sought another meeting at the senior commanders to defuse tensions that have been simmering since early May when troops of the two countries clashed on the banks of the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh.
After the Pangong Tso incident, another skirmish in Sikkim followed on 9 May. It is unclear whether India will accede to the demand, given that India says that China has not kept to the understanding reached at the first meeting of senior commanders on 6 June. But the two countries may hold a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) ― led by senior diplomats ― perhaps as early as this week to cool tensions between the two countries. Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar is to attend a trilateral meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia and China this week with the Indian foreign ministry saying that bilateral issues are not on the agenda of the Russia-India-China meeting.