Rajat Sharma

Tawang: Why sensitive details about army strategy, deployment cannot be revealed in debate

akbAs details trickle in about the violent face-off between Indian army jawans and Chinese troops at Yangtse near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, the United Nations and United States have expressed concern. The US Defense Department said, it was “closely watching the situation along the Line of Actual Control”. Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder slammed China for continuing “to amass forces and build military infrastructure along the so-called LAC”. He said, China is growingly asserting itself and being pro-active in areas directed towards US allies and partners in Indo-Pacific region.

Spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for “de-escalation” and said, “we also call to ensure that the tensions in that area (Tawang sector) do not grow.”

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, we reported how more than 300 Chinese troops entered Indian territory at around 3 am in the darkness of night with the intent to destroy our post in Yangtse, but were repelled by our brave jawans, who called in immediate reinforcements.

The details about the gallantry of our jawans during the violent face-off will make every Indian proud. Though most of the officials are tight-lipped about the details, information that I have received clearly shows that timely reinforcements at the scene of face-off forced the Chinese troops to retreat carrying their injured soldiers on stretchers.

What happened on the night of December 8-9 in Yangtse? PLA Chinese troops wanted to occupy our army’s positions, and the transgression was planned well in advance. The Chinese knew when our posts are thinly defended. They chose the darkness of night and carried spiked clubs with nails, steel fists, pointed rocks and taser guns. They were more than 300 in strength and wanted to occupy Indian positions at a height of 17,000 feet. They chose the day of attack when the duty of Indian army jawans rotate. New jawans are deployed to replace old ones.

At the time of attack, there were only 75 jawans of J&K Light Infantry at the post. The PLA troops were confident of occupying the Indian position by force easily. When our jawans challenged them, the Chinese troops started throwing stones, and drew out their spiked clubs and taser guns to attack. Within 30 minutes, fresh Indian reinforcements reached the spot and surrounded the Chinese intruders. In the violent clash that followed, dozens of Chinese troops were injured, and they ultimately fled, by the time the first rays of sun appeared.

Two days later, on December 10-11 night, some PLA troops again tried to intrude, but they were again bashed up by Indian jawans. Some of the injured Chinese troops had to be carried away by their comrades. The same day, the local commanders of both sides had a flag meeting and both agreed not to escalate the issue further.

I spoke to some defence experts about the strategic importance of Tawang area in Arunachal Pradesh and asked why the Chinese are regularly transgressing the LAC there. They disclosed that our jawans are at a commanding height from where they can easily keep a watch on the activities of Chinese troops. The Indian post is at a height of 17,000 feet, while the Chinese post on the other side is at a lower height. With Indian jawans manning a dominant position, the Chinese officials feel it could be a risk for their supply lines and other posts. A similar clash took place in October last year.

Since 2006, Indian and Chinese troops have had face-offs at least 15 to 16 times in Tawang sector, and after each face-off, the Chinese had to retreat. Our army has deployed hi-tech surveillance system near the LAC to keep a watch on enemy movements. Indian jawans deployed along the LAC have been given training in hand-to-hand combat. Due to low level of oxygen and severe cold, our jawans also undergo Yoga and traditional Indian martial arts training too.

On the other side, the Chinese are building camps, roads and bridges, and in some areas, they have set up new villages for their troops. India, too, is developing its infrastructure close to the LAC, by building all-weather roads, helipads and bridges. Due to better connectivity, reinforcements can reach our jawans within minutes. This is what rattles the Chinese more.

In both Houses of Parliament, the Opposition led by Congress has been demanding discussion on the Tawang situation since Tuesday. The Chair, in both the Houses, disallowed debate, citing past precedents because of the sensitivities involved. Home Minister Amit Shah said, “Nobody can occupy an inch of Indian land. I praise the valour and bravery of jawans displayed on the night of December 8. They forced the Chinese to retreat.” But the opposition is not satisfied. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge held a meeting with leaders of 17 opposition parties on Wednesday morning. They again raised the demand for debate, and staged a walkout from both Houses.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said, “the government needs to give us an overview, talk to the public about what its understand is, and answer some questions. This is normal. During the 1962 India-China war, Pandit Nehru held a debate, and he listed to 100 speakers in Parliament before coming up with a reply. That is the kind of constructive engagement that we are seeking…We have been saying for some time now that this is what Parliament is for. It is a forum for the government to be accountable to the people of India on a matter like this, where for five years, Chinese have been nibbling at our LAC starting with Doklam in 2017, and going on till what happened in Tawang, and the incidents in Galwan, Depsang, Hot Springs, and so on. ”

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that China continues to occupy seven thousand km of our territory, and in some place, it has intruded eight km inside our area. He said, “if the government has nothing to hide, then why can’t it take a delegation of MPs to Tawang to gauge the situation?”

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge went to the extent of saying “it is because of the weakness of the government, that our jawans are being martyred on the border. The Defence Minister gave his statement and went away, but we are not being allowed to seek clarifications on his statement”. Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav said, “the clash took place on LAC because the Chinese intruded in our area. Our jawans fulfilled their duty, but what is the government doing?”

There is no doubt that Chinese troops tried to intrude into our territory with the intent of occupying one of our forward posts in Tawang. It is also correct that our brave jawans forced the enemy to retreat, carrying their injured comrades on their shoulders. The Army has clarified that not a single jawan has been seriously injured. All the six wounded jawans have minor injuries. Army has also clarified that not an inch of our land has been occupied.

Despite these clarifications from our Army, if people raise doubts and questions, it is tantamount to indirectly demeaning the valour of our armed forces. Experts say, such clashes do take place, but earlier, the preparedness of our jawans was not up to the mark, there was no infrastructure, and reinforcements took time. But the situation has now changed. There is road connectivity near LAC. All-weather roads, tunnels, bridges have been built.

Our army movements have become faster, and the benefits are there for all to see. Within minutes of the Chinese intruding into our area, reinforcements reached the spot, and the enemy troops had to flee. In no responsible country of the world are matters relating to security raised publicly. There is democracy in other countries too, but when there is tension on the border, the strategy to deal with the enemy is not announced inside Parliament.

It is the Army that decides how to tackle the enemy, and this is done in closed rooms.

–Does the opposition want that our government should reveal in Parliament, how many jawans are deployed near the LAC, and what sort of weapons they carry? What sort of back-up they have?

–Does the opposition want that our government should openly challenge China to a war?

–Can we expect from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to create a war-like situation? In today’s world, war is fought more with a mind and less with weapons. That is why, debates in public on such sensitive matters are avoided. There might be some people who may be thinking that since their party cannot defeat Narendra Modi in elections, at least Xi Jinping can do the work for them.

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