India’s Northern Command has commissioned lightweight riot gear and spiked clubs for its border forces following a deadly attack on Monday by China’s army, which saw the Chinese use batons wrapped in barbed wire to kill at least 20 Indian soldiers in the western Himalayas, India Today reported on Thursday.
Following Monday’s bloody hand-to-hand combat, the Indian Army felt compelled to order the armor and spiked clubs to protect its soldiers from further ambushes by China’s army, “a medieval adversary,” according to the report.
Monday’s clash occurred in the Galwan Valley, located in the northeastern Indian state of Ladakh. Neither Indian nor Chinese troops stationed along the border in this region are reportedly armed though, following the incident, some reports claimed the Indian soldiers had firearms but not permission to use them.
This has been the tradition for decades, meant to discourage the escalation of border conflicts. In general, past border disputes between the two sides have been relatively tame, limited to sporadic brawls and scuffles along the boundary. On Monday, however, the Chinese troops reportedly used improvised weapons – including rocks, iron rods, and batons wrapped in barbed wire – to savagely attack and kill Indian soldiers.
In response, the Indian Army has ordered its own spiked clubs, according to an Indian army officer who spoke to India Today on Thursday.
“We won’t be surprised the next time,” he said.
On Tuesday, “500 sets of full-body protectors [were] airlifted from the Mumbai-based supplier to Leh [Ladakh’s capital]” where they will be “distributed among troops deployed along the LAC [Line of Actual Control, the official name for the border between India and China],” the news magazine reported.
“The body protectors comprise padded polycarbonate inserts and protect wearers from, significantly, sharp objects and stones,” India Today said.
Monday’s ambush killed at least 20 Indian soldiers, with many others critically injured. Indian media reports indicate that roughly 40 Chinese troops died after Monday’s conflict, but Beijing has yet to officially confirm the Chinese death toll. Indian government sources on Tuesday said that at least 24 more soldiers were being hospitalized with “life-threatening” injuries in the aftermath of the attack.
“The [Indian death] toll will likely go up,” India’s News18 quoted an Indian military officer as saying.
The fighting on Monday was the Indian Army’s deadliest since a 1999 war with Pakistan. It was also the most intense military conflict between India and China since 1967 when skirmishes along a Himalayan mountain pass in Nathu La killed 88 Indian soldiers and roughly 340 Chinese troops.