Home Current Affairs Indian Government Gives Free Hand to Army on China Front

Indian Government Gives Free Hand to Army on China Front

The Indian Army has changed its rules of engagement on the Line of Actual Control with China, which will allow field commanders to order troops to use firearms under “extraordinary” circumstances. This follows the violent clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers on June 15, when 20 soldiers, including 16 Bihar’s commanding officer Col. Santosh Babu, were killed.

Sources said the Chinese were informed about the change in the rules of engagement and that India will respond forcefully to any violence.

Earlier, under the agreement of, 1996 India-China agreement, Army and ITBP jawans were not carrying the loaded guns during patrolling, and gun barrels were pointed downwards.

Army Jawans patrolling near the snow-covered border
Jammu and Kashmir, Jan 26 (ANI): Army Jawans patrolling near the snow-covered border on the occasion of 71st Republic Day in Kupwara on Sunday. (ANI Photo)

Armed forces deployed along the 3,500-km de-facto border with China have been given “full freedom” in giving “befitting” reply to any Chinese aggressive behavior, government sources said after defence minister Rajnath Singh held a high-level meeting with top military brass on the situation in eastern Ladakh.

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The sources said Singh told the top military brass to maintain a strict vigil on Chinese activities around the land borders, airspace, and strategic sea lanes and asked them to adopt a “tough” approach in dealing with any misadventure by Chinese forces.

Indian and Chinese armies have been on a six-week standoff in several areas of eastern Ladakh. The ties between the two countries came under severe strain after Chinese military killed 20 Indian Army personnel and injured around 76 in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on June 15.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has not yet talked about the number of casualties it suffered.

The sources said the armed forces have been given full freedom to deal with any act of aggression by China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border between the two countries. They said the Army as well as the IAF have already been ramping up their operational capabilities along the LAC to effectively deal with any Chinese misadventure.

The meeting came a day before Rajnath Singh leaves for Russia to attend a grand military parade in Moscow to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany in the Second World War. The border tensions between India and China are likely to come up for discussion during the visit.

The commanders will no longer be bound by restrictions on the use of firearms and will have full authority to respond to “extraordinary situations” using all resources at their disposal, said one of the officers cited above.

A significant change in Rules of Engagement (ROE) by the Indian Army following the Galwan Valley skirmish that left 20 Indian soldiers dead gives “complete freedom of action” to commanders deployed along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) to “handle situations at the tactical level,” two senior officers said on Saturday on condition of anonymity.

The commanders will no longer be bound by restrictions on the use of firearms and will have full authority to respond to “extraordinary situations” using all resources at their disposal, said one of the officers cited above.

The amendment in ROE comes after Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in their first deadly conflict in 45 years in Galwan Valley on June 15, resulting in the death of 20 Indian army troops and several Chinese casualties.

In his remarks during an all-party meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the army had been given the freedom to take necessary steps along the border and India had conveyed its position (to China) through diplomatic means.

“With the changes in the ROE, there’s nothing that limits the ability of Indian commanders to take whatever action they deem necessary on the LAC. ROE has been amended to address the brutal tactics being employed by Chinese troops,” said the second official cited above.

The seven-hour Galwan Valley clash marked the first time India suffered combat fatalities in an incident involving Chinese troops since 1975. Changes in ROE were imminent after a series of violent clashes along the border, with the army finally deciding not to restrict the scope of the response of its soldiers after the June 15 clash, the second officer said.

“Two violent clashes took place in Pangong Tso (May 5-6) and Galwan Valley (around mid-May) before the June 15 skirmish in eastern Ladakh. On all occasions, they came in huge numbers and assaulted our troops with iron roads and nail-studded clubs. Our troops fought back fearlessly but the ROE had to be revisited,” he said.

Since soldiers are allowed to carry weapons while patrolling the LAC, it is inherent that they can use the firearms in unprecedented situations like the attack in Galwan Valley,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd).

The government said on Thursday that soldiers involved in the June 15 clash with Chinese troops were carrying weapons and ammunition but did not open fire as they were following border agreements between the two countries — a remark that came in response to a question from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on whether the Indian soldiers were sent in “unarmed”.

“Let us get the facts straight. All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving post. Those at Galwan on 15 June did so. Long-standing practice (as per 1996 & 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during faceoffs,” external affairs minister S Jaishankar tweeted, responding to a post by Gandhi earlier this week.

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