Karan Thapar interviews me on my story of another Galwan clash on May 2nd - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 14 July 2021

Karan Thapar interviews me on my story of another Galwan clash on May 2nd


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In an interview with the redoubtable Karan Thapar of The Wire, I defend revelations made in an article I wrote for today’s Business Standard.  

That article reveals details of an alleged clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan in eastern Ladakh. The clash happened on May 2nd

I say that, theoretically, there could have been casualties on both sides.

“We simply don’t know about the Chinese, because they do not reveal the truth. Of possible Indian casualties,” I say, “it would be hard to hide serious injuries but smaller ones can be withheld from the public.”

In a 25-minute interview I clarify that I have got my information from reliable and credible sources. As I put it: “I make sure they are credible and authentic”.

I make four serious claims, which suggest there has been an increase in tension between the Indian and Chinese armies in eastern Ladakh, culminating in the Galwan clash of May 2.

The claims suggest a deployment of S-400 missiles by the Chinese which has eroded India’s superiority in air power. And third,  a reneging by the Chinese on the disengagement agreement of February 2021 in the Pangong Lake area.

First, I say there has been “at least one clash between the two sides…on the Galwan River, close to where 20 Indian soldiers were killed on June 15 last year”. This happened “when PLA soldiers set up a tent at the bend of the Galwan River near PP-14. India demanded it be removed as it was in the buffer area that both sides had agreed to.” He says the date of this clash was May 2.

I point out that there could have been casualties on both sides. I said that serious casualties on the Indian side cannot be hidden but lesser ones may not have been revealed.

Second, I say: “The PLA has apparently flouted the February 2021 demilitarisation agreement, which had envisioned a mutual withdrawal of troops in the Pangong Sector”. I specifically add that “on the south bank of Pangong Lake, Chinese troops have reportedly reoccupied the positions on the Kailash Range, such as Black Top and Helmet, which they had vacated.”

Asked if I was absolutely sure of my claim that the Chinese have reoccupied Black Top and Helmet, I said “My sources are absolutely sure of it”. He said his sources have given him specific details. They told him the Chinese found it easy to breach the demilitarisation agreement because the infrastructure they have set up over the years gives them a clear advantage over India.

Third, I said, “The PLA has deployed at least one, and probably two, regiments of S-400 air defence missiles, which would drastically erode India’s superiority in air power.” Again, asked if I was sure of this, I said my sources had told me they were absolutely sure one regiment has been deployed and a second, they said, was in the offing and may well have been deployed by now.

Finally, I said that, as a result of adverse developments, tension in eastern Ladakh has been increasing since early April. I said: “In the first week of April 2021… Chinese drones began entering Indian air space in large numbers.” I added: “In mid-May…the PLA began reoccupying many of the positions that have been vacated.”

Army’s response

Now, in a strong rebuttal, the Army has said in a statement it has issued: “The article is riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation”. I respond by pointing out that the statement does not mention a single inaccuracy. It simply asserts there are inaccuracies without giving even one example.

The Army’s statement also says that my claim that agreements with the Chinese have collapsed is “false and baseless”. I said the army statement does not mention, leave aside deny, his report that one or may be two regiments of S-400 air defence missiles have been deployed by the Chinese in eastern Ladakh.

The Army statement says: “There’s been no attempt by either side to occupy the areas from where the disengagement has been undertaken”. It also says specifically: “There have been no clashes in Galwan or any other area.”

To this, I pointed out that, even last year, when the Chinese were at various points encroaching on Indian territory in eastern Ladakh, the initial response from the army and the Ministry of Defence was silence and denial. I says it was only after I broke the story that hesitant confirmation started to emerge. I said the same pattern was being repeated this year.

Finally, the Army statement says: “The intention of the reporter is mala fide and not based on any truth”.

I brushed this aside and added: “I don’t take the army’s rebuttal seriously.” In a more jocular vein I added, “I am surprised the army knows so much about my intentions.”

Finally, I said it’s very unlikely that Foreign Minister Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will discuss these developments at a meeting they may have today in Dushanbe because the official Indian position is that nothing has happened and, therefore, there cannot be anything to discuss.

1 comment:

  1. Ajai is 100% on the Army's side. He is saying only what the Army cannot say. His information comes from the Army and contains no inferences, only facts delivered without moral judgements or criticism. It is long past time folks realized this and did not impute to him political motives. We are the losers if we dont listen to him. As for the Army and GOI, its back to 1959-62. I excuse the Army because it absolutely could not, in those days, say a word. I dont excuse GOI for what happened then, and I wont excuse GOI for what's happening now. If Nehru had been frank with the nation from the start and acted on the Army's request for six more divisions to face China - a very doable and reasonable request, seeing as a few years later we raised 15 divisions - the 1962 fiasco and the permanent damage to our psyche would not have happened. It is none of my buisness, but I cant help saying: if GOI wont spend the extra 2% of GDP to make up for the 30-year equipment deficit, and if things go wrong again in the north, the people will not forgive the GOI - I dont care which party makes the government.


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