SOURCE: THE PRINT
India will have to deploy another troop division to safeguard the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and prevent China from coming back once disengagement is complete in Eastern Ladakh, Lt Gen H.S. Panag (retd) said. The former Northern Army commander said additional troops from the Leh-based 14 Corps should be deployed here. The Army’s 14 Corps has two divisions under it — one which looks after Siachen and the other which is posted along the Line of Actual Control with China.
Each division has about 10,000-12,000 men with artillery and other elements. Panag also said that in case of a war, the strategic Darbuk-Shyokh-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road would be rendered non-operational and even the airfield there would come under Chinese missile attacks.
He was speaking during an interaction for the launch of his book, The Indian Army, Reminiscences, Reforms and Romance, on ThePrint’s e-venue Soft Cover.
Panag said China has been aggressive along the LAC in Ladakh because it believed New Delhi was building all-weather roads through the same route that the Indian Army used in 1962 to reach Galwan Valley, thereby threatening Aksai Chin.
“While the overall intent of China is to have hegemony over India, make India play the younger brother kind of the role … The Chinese are very sensitive to threats to Aksai Chin,” he said, adding that even in 1962, the discussions of the Chinese politburo centred around India’s plans against China.
“The two reasons cited (back then) was that India wanted Tibet’s freedom, in fact to usurp Tibet, and second was that through the forward policy we are trying to gain more Chinese territory,” he said. “This was the main theme in the politburo discussions.”
Strategic DBO sector wouldn’t count in a war
Talking about the strategic DSDBO road, Panag said the DBO sector has its own inherent weaknesses and there is no point in saying that we have an airfield there.
It would be rendered non-operational for India because the Chinese can easily observe the road from within their own side of the LAC if they sit on the heights. The same also applies to the Advance Landing Ground in DBO, which is less than 15 km from the LAC.
This means that it can be easily targeted by rockets which will render the airfield useless, Panag said.
“The DBO road cannot be used in operations because the Chinese have to just get on to the heights on their top,” he said. “Even in their own side of the LAC, they can observe the road and destroy the bridges and others with their rocket force.”
The airfield is just 15-20 km from the LAC, he said, putting it in the direct artillery range. “It will be rendered useless on the very first day of operations.”
Panag added that one should not talk about taking back lost territory without developing capability, an apparent reference to statements by BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, who said that India will take Aksai Chin back.
‘Reasons behind the Chinese moves’
Explaining the strategic reasons behind the Chinese moves, Panag said the DBO is the western approach to Aksai Chin and Kongka La is the southern approach.
“From the area of Hot Springs and Gogra Post, there are two routes,” he explained. “One goes to the east to the Kongka La and from there to almost the eastern edge of the Aksai Chin. There is another route that goes from Hot Spring northwards. This route goes to the source of the Galwan river.”
Giving a historical perspective, he added, “What people don’t realise is that in 1962 when we established the Galwan Post, it was 80 km upstream. And the route that we took was from Hot Springs.
“So from Hot Springs we approached the source of the Galwan river, a little below it and established a post. We actually went and established the post in 1962 behind the Chinese. The direct access to Aksai Chin is from DBO and Galwan and hence the Chinese are very sensitive”.
He said the Chinese observed that India has built the DBO road and is making one in the Hot Springs area northwards, which would have taken Indians to the source of the Galwan river just like in 1962.
“What would be the end result? We will threaten the Galwan river deployment of the Chinese. We will once again get behind it,” he said. “Then the whole of Galwan Valley will be eventually taken by India.”
He said the fact that India was building access to the Galwan river from both sides — Hot Springs and confluence of the Shyok and Galwan — is the real reason why the Chinese have taken action.
He also said the Pangong Tso is being eyed by China because there is another route through Sirijap Post in the area to Aksai Chin.