Five thousand five hundred metres above sea level, the Indian Air Force Mi4 medium-lift helicopter fought its way over the great ice sheets shrouding Ladakh, its single radial engine rendered asthmatic by altitudes its Soviet designers had never designed it to perform. Evading bursts of small-arms fire sent their way by People’s Liberation Army patrols perched along the Galwan river, the pilots slowly made their way to the Indian Army’s eastern-most outpost in Ladakh.
There was, the pilots would report that morning of 21 October, 1962, no sign of life: Galwan Post, India’s most remote outpost in Ladakh, had been obliterated.
Fifty-eight years on, PLA and Indian Army troops have again faced off at exactly that same place, where 68 soldiers of the 5th Battalion of the Jat Regiment—with no artillery or air support; short of ammunition, fuel and food—held off almost an entire PLA Battalion, knowing there was no hope of either reinforcement or escape.
Galwan Post wasn’t just a military tragedy: its loss, India’s official history of the 1962 war records “demolished the assumptions that were the foundation of the Forward Policy”, the government’s strategy on China. Those misjudgments and missteps are now relevant as never before.