By Maj Gen C P Singh (Retd)
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
“The Charge of the Light Brigade”
Lord Alfred Tennyson
I read above lines of “The Charge of the Light Brigade” poem from Lord Alfred Tennyson in my VI std, about half a century ago. I didn’t understand anything about Crimean War or the valour of the charge except the literary value of the poem as explained by our English teacher. If anything that matches the glory and gallantry of Light Brigade today after 166 yrs is, perhaps the Indian soldiers’ battling at Galwan valley. The Battle of Galwan 2020 will go down as the best fought unarmed combat battle of 21st Century. We can never imagine the heroics of a combatant fighting hand to hand, to kill (otherwise be killed) at 15,000 feet, on a slippery slope covered by boulders and pebbles, with a sub zero temp river at the bottom that will freeze anyone within minutes – and, all this happening, at night.
On June 16th morning, the whole of India descended in a pall of gloom after listening to some sketchy news that 20 Indian solders including CO, 16 BIHAR have been martyred by attacking Chinese troops at Galwan valley on LAC. Oh NO!! Fears of 1962 came alive in AC living rooms of common Indians because the previous Indo China conflict also started from Galwan in the month of June 1962. There was angst against China everywhere and whole of India stood up to cry- “BADLA (Revenge) as if we were the victims of Chinese aggression, yet again.
The lack of clarity from Army and Government sources indicated to public that we had a lot to hide. Generally, one covers the failures and hence public perceived it as our defeat, in the hands of Chinese. Duly abetted by TRP hungry media, ISI controlled social media and opportunist politicians, the heroic incidents was initially perceived by public as a slap on our face. To pressure the Government/Army for immediate retaliation, from our AC drawing rooms, is an extremely irresponsible act.
The treacherous Chinese plan was to heavily outnumber and massacre the Indians in the ambush, at PP 14, Galwan river-bed. After achieving that, it proclaimed that the Indians violated the LAC globally posing as the disciplined and innocent Chinese who defended themselves against an aggressive Indian Force in their territory. A small Chinese Force slays a stronger Indian Army. Government controlled media in China would have fuelled this Propaganda!
The idea was to tell the World – DON’T MESS WITH SUPERPOWER CHINA. THE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE FATAL. The Indian politicians and media having empathy with China would have taken no time to shame Government and Defence Forces. However, tables turned for all of them. Indian soldiers tore through the Chinese script with their valour and gallantry. Certainly, this brilliant act of unarmed combat has also exposed the poor competence and tactical flaws of PLA.
As details about these brave hearts emerge with clarity, my head goes up in sky and I salute them a thousand times. Let me put the pieces of mosaic together to look at wholesome picture, with all inputs from confirmed and unconfirmed sources. Let me assure the nation that Galwan will go down in the annals of Indian Military History as an incident which toppled the China’s applecart. The following scenario emerges with some clarity:-
- The Chinese had deceitfully shown a limited pullout as agreed and left a sizeable force at Galwan ledge, prepared with medieval age weapons which looked like an ad hoc weaponry.
- The first party of Indian troops that went on to verify that the area is vacated by Chinese fell into their trap and suffered heavy casualties.
- The Indian reinforcements had to come from a place with more than two hours of walk. Initial responses were graduated because they could not fathom the unprecedented and well planned assault. The Chinese soon augmented their fighting troops, being close by.
- Finally, the Indian troops got their wits around and then fought valiantly, excelling in unarmed combat. Though less in numbers, they made up by their competence from better training, bravery, grit and courage.
- The battle was fought and won by mix of all arms, though maximum troops were from 16 BIHAR and two artillery units in close vicinity. Attributing glory/loss to any one will be unfair to the synergised effort of Indian troops, who fought shoulder to shoulder.
- The chocolate soldiers of PLA were no match to well trained, battle hardened and motivated Indian Army soldiers. Chinese soldiers of 21st Century are born and brought up in luxury living of affluent families and pampered being single child. They undergo compulsory military training (forcefully) and are only interested in completing their tenure. The motivation to fight and win is very poor.
- There were equal number of fatalities and injuries on both sides. Rather more on Chinese side.
- Some troops were detained by both sides and exchanged later. Those detained included a PLA CO (Not Confirmed).
- Both sides were unarmed as per protocol in vogue and there was no time to change the same. At least, both sides honoured the same, even in crisis.
- I think China had very seriously miscalculated on the Indian Armed Forces. They should know what they are up against. The India Armed Forces are the toughest in the world. Let’s have no doubt about our capabilities.
I have no doubt in my mind and as details come out slowly, the nation/world is also getting convinced that we won the unarmed combat Battle of Galwan on June 15, 2020, squarely and Chinese got a bloody nose. The loss of lives of those martyred is sad and painful but soldier always pays the price for national security and freedom of the citizens.
The clear indications of Indian Army troops having won the battle of Galwan, are summarised as follows: –
- It was a well-planned surprise tactical action which went horribly wrong due to poor execution. This tactical action will have great geostrategic ramifications; certainly with adverse effects on Chinese military competence.
- We inflicted far large no. of casualties on Chinese soldiers then own soldiers martyred, though PLA was in greater numbers. Indians had 20 martyrs while 45 Chinese soldiers were killed.
- We lost a CO of an unit in the battle and so did Chinese.
- Both sides had equal no. of solders detained. Those detained by India including a PLA CO (Not officially confirmed)
- Chinese had to vacate the place of conflict (PP14).
- PLA Army Commander of Western Tibet Theatre has been sacked indicating acceptance of failure by Chinese Government / PLA.
- Indian Government & hierarchy has also shown the grit and determination to match the Chinese aggression indicating that we are no push-overs and ever ready for a show down, if it escalates to full scale war.
- While India has accorded a national honour to our martyrs, Chinese Government had not done so, thereby acknowledging that their troops did not display any valour. Public angst against communist party is thus understandable.
- China’s image in the world has taken a beating. It is now perceived as a bully. The larger ramification – NEVER TRUST CHINA.
- Sizeable economic loss has also accrued to china. Indian Government banning software and construction companies is a step in right direction. Others are also planning to follow suit. Large no of MNCs are shifting bases out of China or not further expanding their manufacturing hubs. Exports from China have also taken a beating.
To underscore, the moral ascendancy that Indian troops achieved in Battle of Galwan has been able to undo the fears of 1962 to great extent. Viewing the heroism of troops through a prism of different religions, regions, arms/services and Regiment for petty political gains or as one-upmanship will be unfortunate and undermining the battle winning cohesiveness of all Indian soldiers. In defence forces, we are the most secular of all with only one religion that is -INDIAN and only one caste – FAUJI. Please don’t erode the DNA of this finest institution.
When the Nation is at war, it’s SABKI LADAI and not only soldier’s war. The war is fought on diplomatic, political, economic and cultural fronts, as much as on the frontiers. May I request politicians, veterans and journalists not to invoke national sentiments to have pity and sympathy for martyrs but give them honour and respect, which they truly deserve. We are the winners at Galwan and not the aggrieved. The Chinese soldiers are no longer 10 Feet tall. Post Galwan, they are lesser than half of that.
The NEW INDIA of 130 crores salutes the Bravehearts of Galwan who cut Chinese to their actual size. Today, India’s military is being led by brilliant men and women who are far better professionals, by virtue of their exposure and responsibilities than their predecessors, and are supported by an astonishing range of technology about which the public and veterans may not be aware of. Our combatants have proved worthy, and far more prepared than their predecessors were.
Presently, there is a need to have sanity and maturity in dealing with the tense situation, the hardliners notwithstanding. War is not a cricket match to be enjoyed live on digital screens, in AC living rooms. War should be the last option because it costs lives from both sides, but if thrust upon us, we will FIGHT TO WIN, as always. The national leadership should also maintain transparency for mutual trust and take the nation along, who is too willing to stand by the Indian Government and its defence forces. Wisdom lies in having peaceful borders and good neighbourly relations which transforms into mutual prosperity.
– The author is a scholar-soldier having experience and knowledge of International Affairs and Socio Psychological issues. He is a social activist, career consultant, motivational speaker of repute and an avid writer.