The Army has changed rules of engagement along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) with China, empowering field commanders to sanction use of firearms under ”extraordinary” circumstances. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier also said the Army has been given full freedom to deal with the on-ground situation.
Under previous rules of engagement – agreements signed in 1996 and 2005 – neither side opens fire on the other. The two countries had also agreed not to use blasting explosives or firearms within two kilometres of either side of the LAC.
Changes to the decades-old rules come less than a week after a violent face-off in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
A further 76 Indian troops were injured army officials told NDTV. None of them suffered critical injuries and are expected back on duty in a week, officials added.
Indian troops were attacked with iron rods, nail-studded clubs and rocks wrapped in barbed wire in the fight near Patrol Point 14 – a vantage point in Indian territory that overlooks Chinese positions on their side of the LAC, the de-facto border between the two countries.
Neither the army nor the government have commented on how many Chinese soldiers were hurt or killed but sources have told NDTV the number stands at 45. This information is based on intercepts as well as Chinese choppers seen in the area.
The deadly clashes are the worst in 45 years. In 1975, four Assam Rifles soldiers were killed in Tulunug La pass in Arunachal Pradesh while on a routine patrol.
The Ladakh violence has also led to a political storm with Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi questioning the government over possible intelligence failures in the build-up to the clash.
Ahead of Friday’s all-party meeting Mrs Gandhi asked: “Did military intelligence not alert the government about the intrusion and build-up of massive forces along the LAC…?”
Mr Gandhi, who this morning called PM Modi “Surender Modi”, has since pointed to satellite images to claim that China had “captured Indian territory near Pangong Lake”.
South actor-politician Kamal Haasan weighed in on the debate today, asking the government to explain how the lives of Indian soldiers were being safeguarded.
A day after the clash Prime Minister Modi said “the country will be proud to know that our soldiers died fighting the Chinese” and that “valour and courage is our country’s character”.
“We never provoke anyone but we will not compromise with integrity and sovereignty. Whenever time has come, we have proved our strength and capabilities in protecting our integrity and sovereignty,” the Prime Minister said.
India has blamed the clashes on “an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there”, rebutting China’s claims that Indian soldiers crossed the border.