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The truth of Galwan must come out, unlike the 1965 battle with Pakistan in Khemkaran

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On 11 August, The Economic Times reported that the Army had conducted a court of inquiry with respect to the Galwan valley incident of 15 June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in action and 76 were wounded in violent “unarmed combat” with China’s People’s Liberation Army, or the PLA. The Army was quick to deny the report, raising more questions about the circumstances of the unfortunate incident.

The circumstances were unusual, and in fact, unprecedented in history of the Army. The key question being who gave the orders for the soldiers to not carry weapons? Or if the soldiers were carrying weapons as announced by the Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar, who gave the orders not to use them? More so, when nothing in the 1996 border management agreement or subsequent border management protocols bars the use of fire arms in self-defence or to safeguard our territory?

Logically, the militaries should and do inquire into lapses in battle to learn lessons and fix accountability. Any attempt not to do so implies that a cover-up is being attempted for an error of judgement by the hierarchy, or with respect to systemic lapses in leadership, training, tactics and weapons/equipment. More often than not, by default, the commander on the spot and their unit gets blamed, and in a regimented system, carries the cross forever. On the eve of the 55th anniversary of 1965 India-Pakistan War, I prove the point with an example.

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36 Sikh (now 4 Sikh) was raised on 23 March 1887, and within 10 years, created history in the battle of Saragarhi by an epic ‘last man last round’ stand on the Samana Ridge in North West Frontier Province on 12 September 1897. In its history of 133 years, the unit has taken part in every war fought by the Army. It was stationed in Beijing in September 1914 to guard the British Embassy and took part in the siege of Tsingtao (now Qingdao in China) in November 1914. From 1916 to 1918, it fought in Mesopotamia, Iraq and Iran. During the Second World War, it fought in Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya and Italy. In 1962, it fought a heroic action at Walong.

On 10 September 1965, the unit under the command Lt Col Anant Singh captured Barki, held by a company of 17 Punjab of Pakistan after a fierce battle. The intensity of the battle can be imagined by the fact that in close combat lasting about 70 minutes, the unit suffered 39 soldiers killed in action and 121 wounded, including two officers. The enemy was left with 15 soldiers killed in action, including the company commander Major Aziz Bhatti and 74 wounded. He was the only one to be awarded Pakistan’s highest decoration — Nishan-e-Haider — in the 1965 war. 4 Sikh was awarded the Battle Honour — Barki — and also awarded a Maha Vir Chakra, three Vir Chakras, three Sena Medals and three Chief of the Army Staff Commendation Card.

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On the morning of 11 September, 4 Sikh was busy reorganising the defence of Barki in anticipation........

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