(TibetanReview.net, Feb18’21) – India and China were on the brink of war on Aug 31 as they jostled to gain control over strategic heights and the Indian Army outsmarted Chinese troops who were trying to secure the heights of the Kailash range on the south bank of Pangong Tso, according to Lieutenant General YK Joshi, General Officer Commander in Chief of the Indian Army’s Northern Command.
Indian troops had captured the strategically important Kailash Ranges in South Bank on Aug 29 and 30 and had launched a counter operation to recapture the peaks, he said.
“Galwan had happened, the redlines had been drawn and we had been absolutely given a free hand to conduct operations the way we wanted,” Joshi told CNN News 18 channel in an interview Feb 17.
Joshi was referring to a violent night clash between Indian and Chinese troops in mid-June last year at Galwan in which 20 Indian soldiers and reportedly more than twice that number of Chinese soldiers were killed. The Indian government had then allowed Indian troops to open fire in self defence should the need arise. Prior to that, Indian troops, though carrying weapons, were not permitted to fire as per protocols evolved in talks with China to avoid casualties.
With Indian troops and tanks at commanding positions on the peaks of the Kailash ranges, Chinese tanks had started rolling up the slopes of the same mountains on Aug 31, Joshi said. It would have been “a no brainer” to fire on the oncoming Chinese tanks, Joshi said adding: “That was the time war was averted. We were absolutely on the edge, we were absolutely on the brink” of war,” he said.
“Those were very tense and challenging moments for us. The Chinese had increased their presence in the region and had deployed heavy tanks. In response to the Chinese aggression, we also deployed our troops and tanks.”
On casualties on the Chinese side in the Galwan clash, Joshi said: “I don’t want to make an estimate” but added that the Indian Army had seen Chinese troops ferrying more than 60 of their men on stretchers. He was not sure how many of them were dead and how many injured.
Last week, Russian news agency TASS reported that the Chinese side had suffered 45 casualties in the Galwan clash. China has not officially put out any numbers of their dead.
The nine-month-long military standoff between India and China came to an end earlier this month after the two sides agreed to withdraw troops in a “phased and verifiable” manner.
“Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8. Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3. Similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides,” India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament.