Written by Manraj Grewal Sharma | Chandigarh | Updated: June 20, 2020 1:38:19 am
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh pays last respects to soldiers killed in the Galwan Valley clash, at Chandigarh on Friday. Source: DPR
Hours after he received at Chandigarh airport the bodies of three of the 20 Army personnel killed in clashes with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday said India must tell the Chinese to vacate the region or face consequences.
Singh told The Indian Express, “Of course there will be consequences for us as well but we can’t let this happen all the time…I am a hardliner. There can be talks with a sensible party but these people are not. They wait for an opportune time and then strike.”
Dismissing talks of Chinese belligerence being fuelled by the August 5 move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, Singh said, “What has abrogation got to do with the Chinese? They have been claiming Aksai Chin since 1962, Shaksgam Valley a little after that.”
The Chinese intrusion at Galwan Valley, according to Singh, was pre-planned. “First, the dispute was along the Pangong Tso, there was an 8 km area patrolled by both of us, then they built on it and cut the road so that Indians couldn’t patrol. After that they went to Patrol Point 14 and announced that the entire Galwan Valley is theirs.”
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Asked about his views on a dialogue with China, Singh said, “We have been talking since 1962, where have we got? Gradually, they have been encroaching on our territory. They (Pakistan) donated area in PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) to China. They (China) occupied Aksai Chin in 1962, and they are claiming territory in Arunachal. Every year they claim a new area. Now they say the entire Galwan is theirs. This is absurd. I call it their salami-slicing tactic.”
When asked about apprehensions that China had a much larger and better-equipped armed force, Singh said, “They are a bigger Army, not a better Army. It’s a people’s Army, not a regular Army… most of their soldiers are on conscription.”
Singh said China backs down in the face of an aggressive stance, recounting that in 1967, Lt General Sagat Singh personally went to the Nathu La pass and supervised artillery action against the Chinese. “They killed a thousand Chinese, eventually they went away and for years afterwards we had no problem there,” he said.
The Punjab Chief Minister said he was against “this policy of appeasement. India must maintain its integrity of territory”.
When asked whether an aggressive stance could lead to an escalation in hostilities, he said, “I don’t know what the government is planning but 20 men need a response. I just went to receive the bodies of three of them, they were young boys… Somebody is responsible for their deaths.
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“Ask the officers who were present there why they did not open fire even when their commanding officer was killed, and they will admit that they were not armed,” he added.
Recounting his days in the Army, Singh said, “We would have troops cover all the area around us when we went to meet some people… How can you meet these guys without weapons and without troops covering you from the hilltops around so that they can open fire in case of an emergency?”
Singh blamed the policy of not carrying firearms during patrols for the deaths, adding, “I spent three years at NDA, one at IMA, then at the college of combat, never saw any danda or stone- throwing. Army is meant as the last resort; deploy para-military for dandas.”
He stated that one cannot have an agreement with a hostile neighbour and asked why the policy of being unarmed was applicable only to Indian troops. “Anything in hand is a weapon… Had I been there, I would have asked my men to open fire. You can’t let your commanding officer be killed. It’s an insult to the unit, to the Indian Army.”
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