The Indian Army on Sunday changed the rules of engagement with Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control, giving soldiers the power to use firearms in “extraordinary circumstances”, IANS reported. Under previous agreements signed between India and China in 1996 and 2005, soldiers of the two countries were not allowed to fire at each other and use weapons and explosives within two kilometres of the LAC either side.
The Army has also been given full freedom to deal with any aggression by the People’s Liberation Army of China.
The change in weapon rules came a week after 20 Indian soldiers were killed and 76 injured in a violent clash with Chinese forces in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. China did not give an official count of casualties on its side but least 43 Chinese soldiers are believed to have been killed or injured in the clash. The face-off between the two neighbouring countries was the worst instance of violence on the border since 1975.
According to several reports, Indian soldiers were attacked with rods and nail-studded clubs by Chinese forces. Many soldiers may also have been thrown into the freezing Galwan River.
On Sunday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting with the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs to discuss the India-China border situation, according to News18. Unidentified officials told the news network that Singh approved the change in weapon rules.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, said India’s decision to change weapon rules was a serious violation of the agreement between both the countries. “The Indian side will pay a heavy price for any such action,” he tweeted.
Last week, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar had denied that Indian soldiers were unarmed during the clashes at Galwan Valley, saying that the troops had followed the protocol to not use firearms. His comments came after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi questioned why Indian soldiers in Ladakh were sent “unarmed to martyrdom” against China.