New Delhi: The Indian Army has ordered body protective suits and batons for troops deployed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the focus of current tensions with China, to protect them from assaults by Chinese troops, two officers familiar with the development said on Friday.
The Chinese troops have been using stones, iron rods and nail-studded clubs to inflict serious injuries during border brawls. Twenty Indian soldiers, including a colonel, were killed in a seven-hour brawl in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on Monday night.
The order for the suits – essentially light-weight riot gear –was placed with a Mumbai-based firm last month after scores of Indian soldiers, including a colonel, were injured in a separate clash with Chinese troops on the northern bank of Ladakh’s Pangong Lake on the night of May 5-6, said one of the two cited above.
Indian and Chinese soldiers have been caught in a tense confrontation along the disputed border since rival patrols clashed near Pangong Lake last month.
The soldiers along the LAC will get 500 sets of protective suits soon in the first instalment, said a second officer. The army has ordered a total of around 2,000 sets of protective suits and batons, he said.
The tensions escalated significantly after the brutal clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley on June 15. Both sides suffered casualties. The Chinese soldiers employed the same modus operandi and attacked Indian troops with stones, iron rods and nail-studded clubs.
Two retired senior commanders that Hindustan Times spoke to said it was inappropriate to supply riot gear to soldiers as their role was not the same as policemen.
The June 15 clash also left 76 Indian soldiers injured, including 18 seriously, officials said. All of them are now stable.
Indian Army officials have said 43 Chinese were killed or seriously injured, citing radio intercepts and other intelligence. The Chinese fatal casualties reportedly include a colonel, but HT could not independently verify this.
The Galwan Valley clash took the relationship between the two nuclear powers to an all-time low.
It came on a day army delegations from India and China held talks at two locations along the LAC – brigadier-rank officers met in the Galwan Valley and colonel-rank officers in Hot Springs – as part of continuing efforts to de-escalate and disengage.
According to an agreement on confidence-building measures along the LAC, signed by India and China in November 1996, both sides do not open fire or conduct blast operations within two kilometres of the de facto border.