About the casualties on the Chinese side, General Naravane says it was evident that they “too suffered substantially”.
China followed “wolf-warrior diplomacy” and “salami-slicing” tactics with impunity browbeating smaller neighbours and it took the Indian Army to show to the world that “enough is enough” and challenge the “neighbourhood bully”, says Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, the 28th Chief of Army Staff, recounting the Indian response to the Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh in 2020.
In his memoirs ‘Four Stars of Destiny’, Naravane, providing a rare insight into the deadly Galwan Valley clashes, says Chinese President Xi Jinping will not forget June 16 any time soon as China’s People’s Liberation Army suffered “fatal casualties” for the first time in over two decades in the fighting.
Naravane, one of the foremost Army Generals, provided a gripping account of the India-China confrontation before and after the deadly Galwan Valley incident, India’s overall response to the Chinese action and how it served as a catalyst to firm up the Army’s combat readiness along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“It was one of the saddest days of my entire career,” says Naravane recalling the death of 20 Army personnel in the Galwan Valley clashes in June 2020.
His tenure as the Army Chief from December 31, 2019 to April 30, 2022 was primarily marked by the Chinese challenges along the contested border as well as the rolling out of long-term reform measures to enhance the combat capabilities of the force.
“June 16 is (Chinese President) Xi Jinping’s birthday. This is not a day he will forget any time soon. For the first time in over two decades, the Chinese and the PLA had suffered fatal casualties,” Naravane writes.
“They had been following wolf-warrior diplomacy and salami-slicing tactics everywhere with impunity, browbeating smaller neighbours like Nepal and Bhutan, while staking their ever-increasing claims in the South China Sea, without having to pay any costs, especially in terms of human lives.” “It took India and the Indian Army to show to the world that enough is enough and to challenge the neighbourhood bully.” Delving into the overall situation along the frontier, Naravane, at the same time, suggests having a “non-aggression” pact between the two countries pending the settlement of the overall boundary dispute, saying it would go a long way in restoring confidence and pave the way for de-escalation and de-induction of forces.
‘Four Stars of Destiny’ published by Penguin Random House India will hit the stands next month.
On the Galwan Valley incident, Naravane says it occurred in view of the Chinese PLA refusing to remove two tents that it had erected in Patrolling Point 14 (PP-14), adding following the adversary’s refusal, the Indian Army decided to pitch its own tents in the same general area.
The eastern Ladakh border row began in May 2020. Naravane says flag-level meetings had been continuing at other locations then, including at PP-15 and PP-17A, where troops fell back over agreed distances, thereby reducing the chances of violent face-offs.
“At PP-14, however, whenever we asked the PLA to remove their tents, they kept changing their stance. From ‘some more time was needed’, to ‘we will check with our superiors’, to it ‘being beyond the mandate of the talks’.” “From this stonewalling, it became evident that there had been no intention of removing those tents in the first place. To counter this, we also decided to pitch our own tents in the same general area,” he writes.
Naravane says when Indian Army personnel went to pitch the tents, there was a violent reaction from the Chinese side.
“Col Santosh Babu, Commanding Officer of 16 BIHAR, went forward with a small party of troops to attempt to defuse the situation but the PLA were in no mood to relent and attacked the CO’s party too,” he says.
“Thereafter, it became a free-for-all. With darkness setting in, both sides rushed in additional troops and a see-saw engagement continued throughout the night,” he recounts.
Although armed, neither side opened fire, instead using batons or clubs and throwing or rolling down stones on each other’s positions, he says.
The former Army Chief says due to better connectivity on their side, the PLA were able to move troops forward in armoured personnel carriers which changed the balance in their favour.