It’s been 50 days in a row since the India– China– Bhutan border tension remains consistent at the Sikkim borders of India.
There is a pact between India and China which states, at the LAC i.e. the Line of Actual Control, there has to be equal number of soldiers on both the sides. Therefore the exact number of troops deployed should be of exact number on both the sides.
China issued a ‘fact sheet’ to India on 2nd August 2017 claiming that India has reduced its troop’s numbers from 400 to 40. The external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj responded to the fact sheet, denying there is no troop reduction done and had the backing of foreign ministry supporting her.
About 250 soldiers of the extremely tough, rough, and strong Jat regiment have been posted at Dok La. They are posted in two layers and the third layer containing the Bofors guns artillery which gave chills down the spine of the enemies during the Kargil War in 1999 to strike against Pakistan, according to First Post.
“It’s easier to shake a mountain than the PLA.( People’s Liberation Army )” A Chinese defence ministry spokesman stated on 24 July.
However the Chinese may have not noticed what is written about the Jats in the book ‘The Sepoy’ by a British journalist Edmund Candler. He writes “It takes earthquakes and volcanoes to turn a regiment of these hard-bitten men out of a position they have been given to hold.”
It will be very challenging for the PLA to face the taller Jats from their positions as the soldiers holding positions at the Doka La are the Jat soldiers at present. Also the terrain favors the Indian army, which is dexterous in mountain warfare.
‘The jat wall’, the first layer of Indian army guarding the Doka La border consists of six foot tall Jats, all of them having one camera each. They have orders to keep an eagle’s eye on the enemies and their activities, and capture every movement made by them on cameras. They will also keep their ears open as few of them are familiar with the bureaucrats. The short heighted PLA troops are needed to stretch their necks upwards even more if they come face to face.
Any attempt made by the PLA to make a move, the first layer of Indian Jat soldiers will counter attack simultaneously sending warning to their heavily armed artillery and also the second layer of the soldiers are been ordered not to lower their weapons in such situation and take gun positions immediately when they encounter signs of aggression from the enemies side.
The bulk of the Indian Army is only 10 kilometres away from the tri-junction. A Punjabi soldier tells First post: “At Doka La, we’re nose-to-nose with the enemy. Barely 250 metres separates us.”
The soldier adds that a Black Cat platoon was the first to reach the spot after the border row kicked off. Then the Jat regiment was called in from the base camp at Nathu La. Another journalist backs up this claim, saying he walked right up to the Indian position at Doka La.
“New bunkers are being built. The ground is being mined to preempt the Chinese attack. Machine-gun nests are being placed at strategic points, and soldiers are performing battle drills at least twice a day. But restraint is still the buzzword,” the journalist wrote, speaking about the Indian Army’s preparations.
Which could be the reason Firstpost was not allowed entry — beyond a point — at Nathu La. Apparently, the media has been kept out of Doka La because of China propensity to use its state media to distort reports from other outlets.
Stopped several kilometres from ground zero, Firstpost spoke to soldiers at Nathu La. They told FS that the Jat regiment has been told to keep calm and beware of PLA’s “creep” strategy.
New Delhi thinks Beijing’s expression is part of the psychological warfare that it uses against all countries. Nevertheless they consider the expression is dulled by India’s response.
A soldier stationed at Nathu La says that “the PLA were making preparations” much before they tried to extend a Class 4 road into Doka La. He also says while Indian Army bunkers are makeshift, those of the PLA are sturdier. “But we are ready to counter-attack. Our supply line is uninterrupted and our three-tier defence is unassailable,” he says.
An army officer told Firstpost that coming September, Doka La will be snowed under. “Bunkers have been cleaned. Extreme cold weather is expected from September to October,” he says. “Each bunker can accommodate seven soldiers.”
There are around 1,200 bunkers estimated in Nathu La.
Immediately after Sushma Swaraj spoke of peace and harmony in the Rajya Sabha on 3rd Aug, China ramped up the speechifying stating that it had run out of patience and demanded the immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Doka La on 4th Aug.
Bhutan considers PLA’s efforts of building a road into Doka La a disputed territory and also a direct threat to her nations security, while India observes. Indian security is worried that China’s game plan might be to cut off India’s contact with her North East.
“We were ordered to stop the Chinese penetration into Doka La,” a soldier tells Firstpost, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “But before we actually stopped them, they demolished some of our bunkers at Lalten Chowky.”
He says the army base camp is just 15 kilometers away from the ugly standoff.
The weather conditions are so extreme and the situations so stressed at the tri-junction, it cannot be forgotten no matter how tough Indian soldiers they are, they are still human beings. Such situations can get any human being some psychological stress.
A soldier asks, “Not only is the border tensed but things are tense at home too. Do we handle the border or our families?” A string from WhatsApp messages displayed.
So it is necessary to help keep their spirits high. As an aid senior officers give the soldiers deployed at the tri-junction daily ML’s (motivational lectures). They are softly reminded about their oaths taken before joining and that they have to protect what they have to protect under any circumstances.
“Whenever a soldier returns from duty, senior officers make it a point to approach him,” an army officer says. “We talk to them and ease their worries. If we spot signs of anger, depression or irritation, we take him off duty. The psychological warfare from both sides can take a toll on even the best of soldiers. In such a tense situation, it becomes crucial that no soldier slips up.”
The officer adds that within 48 hours of the 18 June standoff, an entire company based at Gangtok was deployed at Doka La. The company comprised 3,000 soldiers. The Chinese reciprocated India’s gesture.
With the help of villagers from Kupuk and Julup the long grass has been flattend where Indian soldiers have constructed helipads on the Sikkim’s hilly terrain. Soldiers usually make friends with the locals over a cup of tea.
Mangal Jeet Rai, a resident of Kupuk village tells Firstpost: “My son is in the army. So I know the difficulties the men in uniform face while serving the nation. They keep us safe.”
Rai says three youth from Julup show their appreciation for the soldiers by providing them with chickens.
Elderly people of the village say that if the war situation has to be faced, they will stand side- by –side with the Indian soldiers. When the winter comes, villagers will move to the Gangtok base camp but the Jat soldiers will remain fighting the cold and the enemies, while guarding the borders at the tri-junction says KB Rai, ex-servicemen.
Such dedication and sacrifice is unimaginable for any civilian to even think of, it takes extraordinary bravery cells in the blood to become such a soldier. They know they live by chance but they kill by choice.
We have recreated the article written by Mr Manoj Kumar who is a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.