The poorly demarcated border between India and China appears to vary with topographical changes. On the intervening night of June 15 and 16, 20 Indian jawans were martyred in the Galwan Valley clash. According to reports, the Chinese used rods that were studded with nails to injure the Indian troops. This caused an upheaval in defence rooms across the country. This stone-age way of killing was an act of barbarism. However, what puzzles Indians is why the Indian troops in the Galwan Valley did not retaliate during the clash.
The Galwan Valley clash
To give context, since May 5, tensions were running high at the Indo-China border. This as a violent clash ensued on the northern banks of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, between the troops. As the two Nations held military talks to de-escalate the situation, they were stale attempts. On the night of June 15, the troops clashed at the Galwan Valley. This terrain is infamous for its steep topography, mountainous structures and deep ravines. At a height of around 4,000 ft, they battled hard, with some soldiers falling into the freezing valley below.
The weapons used by the Chinese troops, cross the boundaries of today’s military ammunition. Instead of guns and firearms, the Chinese opted for the hand-to-hand combat method. While the Chinese have yet to confirm the fatality count on their side, American Intelligence Forces suggest the count is 35 Chinese troops.
Were the Indian troops not carrying firearms?
The agreement of 1996, may be the reason for this. This agreement bars soldiers from both sides, from using firearms on each other at the Line of Actual Control. The Article I of the agreement says that “neither side shall use its military capability against the other side. No armed forces deployed by either side in the border areas along the line of actual control.” Thus, it prohibited guns and explosives along the disputed stretch of border, to deter escalation. The Galwan Valley is close to this disputed area, Aksai Chin, which though claimed by India, is under China’s control.
While this isn’t the first time the two countries have fought without conventional firearms, the Galwan Valley Faceoff was brutal and horrific. The last time the Chinese fired bullets, was 1975, killing off 4 Indian soldiers. Since then the two countries have not seen clashes. As per the agreement of 1996, neither side can open fire within 2 km of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Figures in the world of defence and politics have questioned why the Indian troops were unarmed. Responding to them, the Minister for External Affairs, said, "All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving the post. Those at Galwan on 15 June did so." However, the long-standing agreement was the reason the Indians did not fire back.
When the agreement was made, it was in an attempt to ensure ‘self-restraint’ among soldiers, and that they ‘opt for immediate consultation’.This thus aimed at favoring a diplomatic stance when it came to border conflict, before escalations of the conflict could ensue. However, after this long period of time, the Chinese chose to opt for the violent way in the Galwan Valley Clash, while the Indian troops kept to the agreement policy.