“The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make other bastard die for his” – George S Patton.
The result of war is better measured by the valour of the soldiers than the win itself. A win can be achieved by various strategic measures, but not the valour. Being one of the ancient surviving nation, cursed with not-so-great neighbours, we have hada fair share of heroics of our armed forces and the warriors in them. Sikkim stand-off is definitely one amongst them.
Yes, we lost the war with China in 1962 due to various strategic blunders, but, not because of the inferiority of our armed forces. Our Army could have beaten them hands-down had Indian government given them a free hand. It didn’t take much time for our Armed forces to display their supremacy over China, all it needed was mere five years of time.
India doubled the size of the Indian army after losing the war in 1962 and even seven mountain divisions to defend against the attacks of Chinese troops on the Northern borders.
India shares about 4000 kms border with China and the newly formed seven divisions were placed to defend that border. Though they were intended to defend the borders, not all divisions were placed at the borders.
But, in Chumbi valley, our forces were stationed very close to the border, in fact, it was said that both the forces were apart by hardly 20m distance. The origin of the conflict was, the borders of Chumbi valley were not clearly demarked. During the 1965 war with Pakistan, China issued an ultimatum to India to withdraw Indian forces from both Nathu La and Jelep La. For some unknown strange reason, our forces were withdrawn from Jelep La and it continues to be under Chinese possession till date. However, Lt. Gen Sagat Singh, who lead the troops at Nathu La, refused to step back and tensions continue to persist from that time.
Starting from August 13th, People’s Liberation Army (henceforth called as PLA) soldiers started and continued digging trenches which made their way into Indian territory, even after Indian army warned them about the intrusion into Indian soil. Intrusions in to Indian soil started the scuffle between the two parties.
According to Maj. Gen Sheru Tapliyal, ‘one of scuffles resulted in their Political Commissar to fall down and broke his spectacles’. Repeated intrusions onto Indian soil by PLA made Indian army to respond quickly to subside the tensions. Our Army responded by stretching barbed wire along the ridges of Nathu La to clearly indicate the border. However, that didn’t go well with the PLA, they resented it and took taken firing position against Indian army on August 20th. Fortunately, they didn’t do anything on that day and the inevitable was postponed.
Though there was an uneasy silence for the next few days along the border of Nathu La, tensions failed to subside. Again on September 11th Indian army started laying fencing from Nathu La to Sebu La along with the perceived border. As expected, PLA was not very happy with that move and they resorted to what was supposed to be their last resort. They started firing at Indian Army, and, some brave soldiers were martyred because of the lack of enough cover to hide from the volley of Bullets. Resorting to firing without warning was not something men of honor do, and, PLA did that exactly. Because of lack of proper cover and the element of surprise PLA benefited majorly. It resulted in heavy casualties to Indian Army, within the first ten minutes of the firing, 70 of our soldiers were martyred.
And then the Indian Army responded by opening artillery from our side, The firing lasted for over three days and nights.
One advantage that the Indian Army had over PLA was that they stood on a higher ground which offered better view of PLA’s defence and bunkers. When the Indian Army started attacking them, there was no come back from them. Indian Army completely dismantled their defense. Indian artillery firing was very effective. Almost all the bunkers of Chinese army were annihilated, and they suffered heavy causalities, 400 according to their estimate. Real Figures could be twice or even thrice of the number quoted by the Chinese.
On 14th September, China threatened to opt for Air attack, but, by then, the point was driven home and ceasefire was caled. Bodies were exchanged on 15th of September.
But, the true might of Indian army shined in its truest colours after Nathu La incident.
A situation again surfaced on 1st October with a face-off between two armies at Cho La. Despite of initial casualties, Indian army stood strong and sent their regards to Chinese counter part by making them to retrace 3 Kms into the their land, where they continue to stay even to date.
It is not just a simple stand-off between two armies, it was a morale booster for Indian Army which ultimately lead to historic win in 1971. Before that, Indian army was in shambles and with low self esteem as they had to lose the war against China.
But, those two incidents had boosted the confidence in the soldiers of Indian Army and they made mighty dragon to look like a puppet. It was a turning point in the history of Indian Armed forces and they never had to look back from then.