Editor’s note: This article was written by Lieutenant General Prakash Katoch (retired), a former Special Operations officer in the Indian Army, and originally published on Mission Victory India. It offers an original perspective on the border clash between Indian and Chinese troops earlier this week. Lt Gen Katoch’s article is of particular interest to those looking to study the tactical and strategic moves of the Chinese military. 

The horrible manner in which at least 20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel, and at least one JCO [junior commissioned officer] were clubbed to death by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Galwan on the night of June 15/16 is without parallel; number of injured reportedly was 17.

Any soldier would willingly die for the motherland facing bullets, not in this dastardly manner. This was perhaps waiting to happen and more of this is likely because China is testing the redlines of Indian policymakers.

The clash took place during the night and hence casualty figures on the enemy side remain ambiguous though the Indian media is claiming 43 PLA casualties. No doubt our boys too would have fought back but were they carrying iron rods and wooden clubs with iron spikes like the PLA? Would the PLA not have opened fire if they suffered 43 casualties?

From day one of intrusions in Eastern Ladakh, China is blaming India for aggression. For the recent clash, China has also blamed our troops for crossing the LAC twice.

Conversely, when have we held China responsible for the intrusions before today? Did we blame China for intrusions into our territory before today? The Defence Minister’s first statement on June 2, a month after the intrusions, only mentioned that the PLA had come in sizeable numbers “along” the LAC. How would China read this? Did we appreciate that this was not a picnic at LAC and something very serious was to follow?

What was the apprehension in admitting that intrusions had taken place and an appropriate response was being planned? It would have not brought the government down. Intrusions are inevitable where gaps are covered by patrolling and the enemy has the initiative. Isn’t that what happened in Kargil?

Keeping aside three American aircraft carriers in the South China Sea and Beijing wanting to deflect attention from the Wuhan Virus [COVID-19], we need to get down to mother earth. China annexed Aksai Chin for providing depth to their Western Highway. Pakistan made Kargil intrusions to cut off the Srinagar-Leh Highway to choke Siachen to tackle it subsequently. So it was but natural for the PLA to capture higher ground in Galwan to monitor the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) Road from where interdiction by fire was possible. It also provides a launchpad for further operations towards the DBO.