A Colonel and a Major were among five Army personnel killed in an encounter with terrorists that took place in Handwara, J&K, on 3 May. Now, a Colonel, along with two of his men, has been killed in a ‘fist-fight’ with PLA troops at the LAC in Ladakh. What does this say about operational SOPs at the tactical level in the Indian Army? It is all well and good that the Kshatriya spirit requires an officer to lead his troops from the front, but that has not worked well for Indians as history would tell us. It is not good for morale, it dangerously raises the ante and makes it all the more difficult to arrive at a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It is like losing Rohit Sharma’s wicket to the first ball bowled in a cricket match! The government must examine at the strategic level whether these have been unavoidable incidents or the result of rash behaviour on the ground. Suitable remediation measures should be taken urgently to plug the shortcomings, if any.
The Chinese and their unwitting and witting proxies in India have been trying for some weeks now to create panic among the general public in the effort to pressurise the Indian Government into making concessions at the borders. As the government did not allow this process to go through by consistently adopting a measured line, it seems the targeting of the colonel and his men has been done to provide greater ammunition to those among the political opposition willing to exploit this development. It can prove a miscalculation and lead to a dangerous escalation with many unintended consequences.
Early reports indicate that the act could have been the result of frustration among PLA troops at having to withdraw from the positions they had taken. The Indian force was present to oversee this movement and, possibly, matters went out of hand. Beijing is already presenting this as the result of India’s aggressiveness and there are no indications, as yet, of any remorse. This will make it harder to resolve the issue and, it is even possible, that some rival faction in the Chinese Communist Party engineered the event to embarrass the national leadership. Anything is possible in China’s closed system and there may be more afoot than the world knows, at present.
If this situation continues, the actions the Indian Government takes will be considered justifiable by the international community. Whatever happens, nobody should underestimate the resolve and courage of the Indian people to turn this challenge into an opportunity.