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Monday, July 6, 2020

India redraws its rules to engage China on border

Commanders can now decide on response to provocation.The new tactical approach may include staggered movement of patrols in key areas of the line of actual control
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India has reset the rules of engagement with Chinese troops along the entire stretch of their 3,488km long border, with the Indian Army now given a free hand to deal with any provocation by China.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday approved the new tactical approach in a meeting he held on Sunday with Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs, a person familiar with the development said.

“The commanders at LAC (line of actual control) can now give troops complete freedom of action to handle situations at the tactical level,” the person said, on condition of anonymity.

The Indian Army has been given the freedom to deal suitably with any aggression by China along the LAC, this person said.

The tactical approach may include staggered movement of patrols in key areas of the LAC, besides holding some high positions to give Indian troops an advantage.

Although no details were immediately available, experts said this could mean Indian soldiers being set free from the letter of the 1996 agreement that barred the two sides from using firearms.

Commenting on the move, former army chief Gen. V.P. Malik said, “I am glad the rules of engagement have been changed. They needed to be changed given the way China has been acting in the past few years. This will allow the troops to fire in self-defence if necessary.”

Maj Gen (retd) S.L. Narasimhan, a member of the National Security Advisory Board, said, “Even though the commanders on the ground had the liberty to take action as per their professional judgement earlier, the government’s statement on empowering the troops on ground has given further boost to their morale.”

The change follows a violent clash on 15 June on the line of actual control (LAC) that saw no firearms being used, in keeping with the 1996 agreement. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and another 76 wounded. There has been no official confirmation about fatalities on the Chinese side.

According to the terms of an agreement signed in 1996, “neither side shall open fire or hunt with guns or explosives within 2km from the line of actual control”.

During the what the Indian Army described as a “violent face-off” in Galwan region of eastern Ladakh, Chinese troops attacked Indian soldiers with stones and clubs wrapped in barbed wire. The accounts of the brutal attack drew questions from various quarters as to why the Indian soldiers were “unarmed”. Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar last week in a Twitter post said: “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 and 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during face-offs.”

India has already put all troops along the LAC as well as Indian Air Force stations close to borders with China on high alert. Reinforcements have also been sent to areas seen as sensitive with orders to be “extra vigilant.”

The Indian Air Force has moved a sizeable number of its frontline Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar, Mirage 2000 aircraft and Apache attack helicopters to several key air bases, including Leh and Srinagar, in the last five days, a PTI report said.

India will hold ground and not cede any territory to the Chinese, a second person familiar with the matter said, adding New Delhi had no doubts where the LAC lay.

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