Two iconic battles and a massive infrastructure upgrade

Sixty years since the 1962 war, India and China are consolidating their positions along the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control

November 20, 2022 05:00 am | Updated November 21, 2022 08:59 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A group of the Gorkha Rifles who fought in the Battle of Walong finding their way back to river Lohit, following the Indian Army’s withdrawal after heroic resistance for a month in November 1962. File

A group of the Gorkha Rifles who fought in the Battle of Walong finding their way back to river Lohit, following the Indian Army’s withdrawal after heroic resistance for a month in November 1962. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The 60th anniversary of two iconic battles in the India-China war was observed this week: the Battle of Walong, in the eastern sector, on November 16 and the Battle of Rezang La in eastern Ladakh on November 18. Today, both India and China, against the backdrop of a 30-month stand-off, are engaged in massive infrastructure upgrade and consolidation of positions along the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Construction of a series of roads, tunnels, caverns and underground ammunition stores is in progress, a defence source said. Nine new tunnels are under construction, including the strategic 2.5-km-long Sela tunnel in Tawang at an altitude of 13,000 feet, which will be the highest bi-lane tunnel in the world once completed. Another 11 tunnels are being planned, the source said.

Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is currently executing 18 projects spread across the country. This effort to build habitats and adding fire power is an effort to reduce the asymmetry with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) infrastructure upgrade.

In Arunachal, a 2,000-km-long frontier highway also known as Mago-Thingbu-Vijaynagar border highway is planned to be constructed at cost of ₹40,000 crore which follows the McMahon Line. In order to provide interconnectivity between three horizontal national highways — Frontier Highway, Trans-Arunachal Highway and East-West Industrial Corridor Highway — six vertical and diagonal national highway corridors of a total length of 2,178 km are planned to be built, which will also provide faster access to border areas, a source added.

Battle of Walong

On November 16, the country marked the 60th anniversary of the ‘Battle of Walong’, where the Indian Army resisted the advancing PLA soldiers. The Chinese offensive with more than 4,000 soldiers could not breach the forward defences held with 800 men for over 27 days and Chinese Army was subsequently forced to employ additional Division size force of approximately 15,000 soldiers, a defence official noted. Vastly out-numbered and with little ammunition and no resources, Indian soldiers fought to the last man, last round.

A defence official said, “It was only here that for over two weeks India launched repeated attacks against the Chinese to retake our positions. It was only here that battles were fought at heights ranging from 3,000 to 14,000 feet without acclimatisation.”

To mark the 60th anniversary, the Army’s Eastern Command organised a month-long celebration starting October 17. The celebrations were aligned to the events as they unfolded in 1962 and encompassed a large number of activities in Arunachal Pradesh and Upper Assam, the Army said in a statement.

Rezang La

November 18, 2022 marked the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Rezang La in eastern Ladakh in which troops from the 13 Kumaon Regiment defeated several waves of the PLA. The battle was fought at an altitude of 18,000 feet where Major Shaitan Singh and 114 troops of the Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon fought till “last bullet and last breath”. Major Shaitan Singh was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), the country’s highest wartime gallantry award.

In November 2021, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had inaugurated the revamped war memorial at Rezang La.

Since the 2020 stand-off, the Army has used 3D printing to build habitats for 22,000 troops. Focus has now shifted to undertake construction of permanent defences and infrastructure to improve defence preparedness.

Infrastructure development has gained urgency given China’s massive expansion along the LAC since the standoff. Army chief General Manoj Pande had recently said that China’s border infrastructure development includes roads, helipads, airfields and roads right up to the passes.

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