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  • Parthiv Pillai

The Battle for Aksai Chin: Part I

The cold wind whipped across the desolate landscape as the troops mustered at the base camp, their faces grim and resolute. Maj. Gen. Antony surveyed his battalion, his steely gaze sweeping over the men and women who would spearhead the attack on Aksai Chin. 

"This is it, soldiers," he said, his voice carrying a weight of responsibility. "The time has come to take back what is rightfully ours. We will recapture the area from the Karakoram Pass to the Depsang plains. This covers the first quarter of the valley between the Karakoram range and the Laktsang range. Aksai Chin will be ours again by the time the sun sets tomorrow. "

Nearby, Brig. Nayar rallied his own contingent, his words tinged with a fierce determination. "It is our responsibility to recapture the second quarter of the valley between Karakoram and Laktsang. Our adversaries have held that land for far too long. Today, we march to reclaim our sovereign territory, inch by hard-fought inch if we must.”

Maj. Gen. Yadav nodded grimly, knowing that the entire operation's success rested on the coordination of their three units. "Antony, Nayar - we move out at 0500 hours. The fate of Aksai Chin hangs in the balance, and we cannot afford to fail." 

A palpable tension filled the air as the troops began their final preparations. Together, the three commanding officers were responsible for recapturing Aksai Chin. The battle to retake the disputed border region was about to begin, and none knew for certain how it would end. But one thing was clear - they would not give up until Aksai Chin was back under their control.

Antony divided his battalion into four divisions. The first division was headed by Maj. Deepa Ahluwalia, the second division by Maj. Priya Damle, the third by Maj. Ramesh K Menon and the fourth by Maj. Rohan Varma. 

Maj. Menon and Maj. Varma were comrades, brothers forged in the crucible of military service. The two had trained at the National Defence Academy together, where their camaraderie and competitive spirit had pushed each other to new heights.

Though duty had scattered them over the years, now, reunited in the same battalion tasked with reclaiming Aksai Chin, a surge of exhilaration ran through them. Side by side, Menon and Varma were a formidable duo - smart, agile, and utterly in sync. 

The previous night, Maj. Varma and Maj. Menon had sat together and recalled their memories at the academy. Both shared exhilarating stories of their battles and even near-death experiences. 

The soldiers kept watch for any sign of the Chinese troops for countless hours. Finally, as soon as they were sighted,  Maj. Menon alerted Brig. Nayar and Maj. Gen Yadav. He ordered his team to open fire on the enemy. Antony immediately dispatched his troops towards the border. 

At the crack of dawn, Chinese forces began shelling towards the Indian border, prompting a retaliation from the Indian Army. Maj. Varma and Maj. Menon led the effort to contain the Chinese aggression. Menon distributed responsibilities among his troops and made a plan to corner the advancing Chinese soldiers. Within a few hours, his team successfully halted the Chinese offensive. Varma, on the other hand, supported Menon's operations, protecting his planes from behind. By 7:30 am, all units reported that they had thwarted the enemy's advance. The clash resulted in losses of tanks, soldiers, and artillery on both sides, but India's casualties were comparatively lower. Maj. Varma then set his sights on the primary objective - to expel the People's Liberation Army from the Aksai Chin region. He devised a plan, collaborating with Brig. Nayar and Maj. Gen. Yadav, which involved the infiltration of twelve groups of soldiers into the Karakoram range to launch a surprise attack on the Chinese forward posts.

On 12th May 2019, a force of twelve teams from the Indian Army, accompanied by 50 self-propelled artillery units, 150 main battle tanks, and 900 soldiers, marched into the Karakoram range. An additional 100 paratroopers were air-dropped into the region. The Chinese soldiers were completely caught off guard. At 9:00 a.m., the Indian troops opened fire as they infiltrated the Chinese forward posts. Major Menon led his division to storm the forward positions, destroying many enemy artillery pieces and tanks. Brig. Nayar's and Maj. Gen. Yadav's battalions also successfully neutralised the forward posts of the PLA. Within a few days, the Indian Army had reclaimed the first half of the Aksai Chin region. It was a remarkable feat achieved by the three commanding officers’ strategic intelligence and valiance.

They were overjoyed at their great victory. Without wasting even a minute, they put together a plan for the final objective of the mission. They were now to capture the rest of Aksai Chin. It was not just a battle for the rocky region, but a battle for the very soul of the nation.

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