TROUBLE IN TIBET – INDIA – CHINA WAR OF 1967
India – China War of 1962 and 1967 cannot be described as border conflicts for India and China do not share a common border. These conflicts are signs and symptoms of serious malady called ‘Trouble in Tibet’, the Trouble caused by Tibet’s illegal occupation.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-4162 USA
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
THE STORY OF INDIAN ARMY’S NATHU LA & CHO LA STANDS THAT SAVED SIKKIM FROM THE CHINESE ARMY !
This is how it happened at Nathu La ::
Nathu La was the only place in 4000 km long Indo-China border where two armies were separated by a meagre 30 yards.
Chinese held the northern shoulder of the pass while Indian Army had the southern shoulder. Two dominating features south and north of Nathu La namely Sebu La and Camel’s back were held by the Indians.
It started with scuffle between sentries ::
Sentries of both the forces used to stand barely one meter apart in the centre of the Pass which is marked by Nehru Stone, commemorating Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s trek to Bhutan through Nathu La and Chumbi Valley in 1959.
On 6 September 1967, an argument soon turned into a scuffle in which the Chinese Political Commissar fell down and broke his spectacles. Chinese went back since they were thin in size. Indian Army, however, in order to de-escalate the tension decided the lay a wire in the centre of the Pass from Nathu La to Sebu La to demarcate the perceived border. The task was given to jawans of 70 Field Company of Engineers assisted by a company of 18 Rajput deployed at Yak La pass further north of Nathu La.
The actual face-off ::
The wire laying was to commence at first light on the fateful morning of 11 September 1967. With first light, the engineers and jawans started their bit of erecting long iron pickets from Nathu La to Sebu La along the perceived border while 2 Grenadiers and Artillery Observation Post Officers (AOPO) at Sebu La and Camel’s Back were on alert.
Soon, the Chinese arrived. Their Political Commissar, with a section of Infantry came to the centre of the Pass where Lt. Col Rai Singh, Commanding Officer (CO) of 2 Grenadiers was standing with his commando platoon.
The Chinese asked CO to stop the fencing. But Lt. Col was adamant as orders were clear. The argument soon turned into scuffle and once again the tiny Chinese Commissar got roughed up.
Chinese went back to their bunkers, but this time returned to salvage their insult. Minutes later a murderous medium machine gun fire from north shoulder of Nathu La ran riot and jawans of 70 Field Company and 18 Rajput were caught in the open.
Among the Indian causalities was Col Rai Singh who succumbed to the bullet injuries. He was awarded MVC later. Two other brave officers – Capt Dagar of 2 Grenadiers and Major Harbhajan Singh of 18 Rajput rallied a few troops and tried to assault the Chinese MMG but both died a heroic death. They were posthumously awarded Vir Chakra and MVC respectively. Within the ten minutes, there were nearly seventy dead and scores wounded lying in the open on the pass.
Indians in retaliation opened fire from artillery observation posts and as a result, most of the Chinese bunkers on North shoulder and in depth were completely destroyed and Chinese suffered very heavy casualties which by their own estimates were over 400. It was followed by a ferocious counter strike from the Mountaineers, Grenadiers and Rajputs which included close quarter combat also.
The artillery duel thereafter carried on relentlessly, day and night. For the next three days, the Chinese were taught a very good lesson.
On September 14th, Chinese threatened to use Air Force if shelling didn’t stop.
But by then a lesson was taught to the Chinese. Col Raj Singh and Maj Harbhajan Singh were awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously while Capt Dagar was awarded the Vir Chakra.
Another duel at Cho La (1st October 1967) ::
It again started with sentries.
Minor scuffle between Sikh sentries and the Chinese on 30th September on a flat patch of icy land of about five metres on the unmarked boundary was the start of the stand off.
Information of scuffle reached late to CO, Major KB Joshi, but he didn’t waste anytime in telling Lt Rathore about anticipating a Nathu La like backlash. The CO decided to take stoke of the situation and thus reached Rai Gap area on the way to De Coy positions in morning.
While the Indian Sentry at post 15450 was visible, Major Joshi also observed that the post was being surrounded by a section strength of Chinese troops. Major Joshi at once informed Lt. Rathore of what he had seen. The later informed Major Joshi that the Chinese Coy Commander and the political commissar were staking claims to the boulder at the sentry post.
When Gorkha taught them a lesson ::
Naib Subedar Gyan Bahadur Limbu was having a heated argument with his counterpart at the sentry post during which he rested his right foot on the boulder under dispute. The Chinese kicked his foot away. Gyan put his foot back and challenged them. Events were moving quickly.
By this time the Chinese had taken up position, presumably because their commander had already taken a decision to escalate the incident. And one of the Chinese sentries bayoneted Gyan wounding him in the arm.
The Gorkha’s response was swift and soon both arms of the Chinese who hit the JCO were chopped off with a Khukri. At this point the Chinese opened fire and the two sides engaged in a firefight at close range. Lance Naik Krishna Bahadur, the Post Commander, then led a charge against the Chinese in the vicinity who were forming up for an assault. Although hit and incapacitated, he continued to harangue his men forward.
Rifleman Devi Prasad Limbu directly behind his Post Commander was already engaged in a close quarter battle with the enemy and his Khukri took off five Chinese heads.
But he was soon claimed by a direct hit. For his actions he was awarded a Vir Chakra, Posthumous. Meanwhile at Pt. 1540 Lt. Rathore was wounded in his left arm as soon as the firing started. He nevertheless continued to lead until he was hit in the chest and abdomen and died thereafter.
From here on Major Joshi took over immediately and his accurate mortar fire on Chinese positions around Point 15450 put an end to further activity in this area.
CO took matter in his hands ::
While Point 15450 was temporarily quiet, Tamze and the Rai Gap area came under rocket and RCL fire at around 10:50 am. The mortar position at Tamze came under heavy pressure as it threatened the rear of the Chinese positions. J&K Rifles stationed there suffered heavy casualties when one of their bunkers received a direct hit by RCL fire.
Soon, Major Joshi’s escort was killed and a handful of Chinese soldiers tried to move towards Major Joshi’s party. These troops withdrew after Major Joshi took down two Chinese. The fighting, however, continued.
Chinese wanted to shift the location of fight and hence stopped firing. But immediately retaliated by bringing down fire on Timjong’s position, another position closer by.
Major Joshi, undaunted, even though alone, continued to fire until all ammunition was exhausted. By 11:30 am troops were withdrawn back from Pt. 15450 under covering fire from MMGs on Pt. 15180.
Though the Chinese shot green lights indicating a ceasefire but at Pt. 15180 Major Joshi noticed some enemy troops lined up just below the crest at Rai Gap and engaged them, forcing them to scatter. while thwarting them back into their territory, Major Joshi shot four more.
The last assault ::
Despite great show, Pt 15540 was still under Chinese control. Thus operation was launched at 1700 hours after he met his men at camp. Soon Captain Parulekar and B Coy were given the task to capture Pt 15540, but they fumbled in dark.
Chinese fired magnesium flares to see the activity but failed. Captain Parulekar realized it was risky to move further, thus he waited. At 06:40 pm, Major Joshi ordered Parulekar and the platoon to outflank the enemy from a north-west direction, while the rest of the company and supporting mortars were readied for a frontal assault.
The offensive was about to be launched when the Chinese saw Indians occupying key positions to nail them. Thus they retreated and Pt 15540 was captured without firing a single shot.
During the whole standoff, the Chinese lost more than 50 soldiers while Indian Army conceded 15 of its valiant soldiers.