This will be a Platinum Jubilee India won’t be celebrating. The Chinese, though, will make all efforts to remind India of the military debacle of 1962 in which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) overran all defences put up by India and marched in. The Indian Army, though ill-equipped and untrained in the rigours of high altitude warfare, put up a valiant fight but was forced to retreat after suffering heavy losses. The political leadership of the country was to blame for this. But then, since when have politicians owned up their follies?
“This should be a year of remembrance for us all. We should pay homage to the thousands of soldiers who gave up their lives while protecting our borders in 1962. We should also remember how our soldiers caused severe losses to the PLA using their antiquated weapons. Recently, Gen Manoj Pande, Chief of the Army Staff, spoke on how the Chinese are refusing to de-induct from three locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) despite 15 rounds of talks on the subject. This is a well thought out plan by the Chinese. They want their presence felt along the LAC, if for nothing else but to remind India of the 1962 Sino-India Conflict,” a retired Lt Gen said.
Another retired officer of the same rank felt that China will continue to instigate India throughout the year. “Things have certainly changed since 1962. Today, India is well equipped to counter any threat. However, we will have to tread carefully. China continues to maintain that they are simply holding on to positions that belonged to them historically. They don’t agree with maps drawn out by the British or the McMahon Line. Take Patrol Point – 15 in Kongka La for instance. This is disputed territory. In 1959, Chinese soldiers killed 10 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel near this area when they were out to search for some missing colleagues. The Chinese claim that they have a right to protect this area as it is close to a major highway that connects Lhasa with Xinjiang. Its the same with the other disputed areas,” he said.
Many in India believe that Chinese presence at the Depsang Bulge in the Daulat Beg Oldi Sector is a new occurrence. That is not so. China had been extending its boundary in this region in Aksai Chin since 1960. In 1962, the PLA moved further ahead and eliminated an Indian post held by the Jammu and Kashmir Militia. As many as 42 Indian soldiers were killed and 20 captured. In barely two days the Chinese established their position there after eliminating smaller Indian outposts. The PLA has remained there since. After 2017, the Chinese refused access to Indian patrols near the Raki Nullah. After 2021, there have been further fortifications by the PLA though India remains in control of the Depsang Plains and the Advanced Landing Ground at Daulat Beg Oldie. The situation is much the same in Demchok Sector. Even in 1962, India had to withdraw from there with China claiming its rights on the basis of old maps, some of them drawn by the British. Since then, the PLA has strengthened its positions on what it claims is their side of Demchok.
“All of these are in eastern Ladakh. Our Army chief is now on a trip there. He will review the situation along the disputed areas. India is well prepared to tackle any aggressive stance but we need not fall into any trap laid by the Chinese. They will certainly attempt to provoke our troops along the LAC. Given the situation prevailing globally, any escalation along the LAC will not be conducive. There is a difference between India and China. The bulk of PLA soldiers are actually youth forced to serve by the Communist party there. They are basically cannon fodder and any dissent in the country is brutally repressed. Its not the same in India where every soldier’s life is taken seriously,” a senior officer serving in that sector said.