Monday, 12 December 2016

Sumdorong Chu Incidence


1. While writing History of Corps of Signals Volume IV (1973-2000) we have been depending upon inputs sent by units/formations of our Corps as well as memoirs of personnel involved in various operations/events.

2. The inputs received from units/formations are generally sketchy. Neither much have been received from Signals veterans.

3. I am enclosing the first draft of the incidence at Sumdarong Chu. Col OP Mehta (Retd) who provided his experience of CO, 5 Mtn Div Sig Regt during the incidence is the father of present CSO, HQ 4 Corps Brig MK Mehta.

4. I requested the veterans for sharing their experiences so that the Signals portion of the incidence can be enriched.


                                                     Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)
                                                     Chairman, Corps History Cell



Sumdorong Chu Incidence


Sumdorong Chu is a rivulet flowing north-south in the Thag La triangle, bounded by Bhutan in the west and the Thag La ridge to the north. By the summer of 1984 India had established an observation post on the bank of Sumdorong Chu. This post was manned by personnel of the Special Security Bureau (SSB) through the summer and vacated in the winter. In June of 1986, when a patrol from the 12th Assam Regiment returned to the area, it found a sizable number of Chinese already present, engaged in constructing permanent structures. 

On June 26, 1986, the Government of India lodged a formal protest with Beijing against intrusions in this region by Chinese troops, that had occurred beginning on June 16. Beijing denied any such intrusions and maintained that its troops were in a location north of the McMahon Line while the official Indian stance was that the Chinese troops had intruded south of the McMahon Line. The actual region of the incursion has been described as the Thandrong pasture on the banks of the Sumdorong Chu and also as the Wangdung region - which comes under the Zimithang circle of Tawang district . This region falls along a traditional route from Lhasa to Tawang - and from there to the Brahmaputra valley - and the nearby Thag La ridge had witnessed serious clashes in the '62 conflict. [Gautam Das, China-Tibet-India : The 1962 War And The Strategic Military Future, Har Anand Publications, 2009, PP 216-217]

Figure 1. Terrain of the incidence involving Sumdorong Chu 

Initial reports put the number of Chinese at 40 - some of them armed and in uniform - who were soon reinforced to a total strength of about 200 men. Statements by Indian ministers in the Parliament described the intrusion as being between 1-2 km deep as the crow flies, supplied by mules along a 7 km trail. By August the Chinese had constructed a helipad and began supplying their troops by air. Regarding the Chinese presence as a fait accompli and to prevent further 'nibbling', the Indian Army began aggressive patrolling across Arunachal Pradesh at other vulnerable areas. In September ’86 – while under pressure from both the public and opposition MPs to adopt a strong posture - the Government of India sought a way out of the crisis by suggesting that if the Chinese withdrew in the coming winter, India would not re-occupy the area in the following summer. This offer was rejected by China whose troops were by now prepared to stay through the winter. By September-October, an entire Indian Army brigade of the 5th Mountain Division was airlifted to Zimithang, a helipad very close to the Sumdorong Chu valley. Referred to as Operation Falcon, this involved the occupation of ridges overlooking the Sumdorong Chu valley, including Langrola and the Hathung La ridge across the Namka Chu rivulet. (These ridges are to the south of Thag La.) 

By this time, after decades of intensive re-arming and expansion, the Indian army was very different from the weakly-armed, ill-clothed force that had been painfully mustered in 1962 to drive the PLA out of their commanding positions on Thagla Ridge. Not only were the Indian troops now well prepared and armed for warfare in this terrain, road-heads had been brought nearer the key frontier areas, and plenty of transport aircraft and combat helicopters were available to provide supply and ground-attack support. Troop reinforcements on the Indian side – which had begun with Operation Falcon in late 1986 – continued through early ’87 under a massive air-land exercise. Titled Exercise Chequerboard, it involved several divisions of the Army and several squadrons of the IAF and redeployment of troops at several places in the North-East. The Indian Army moved 3 divisions to positions around Wangdung, where they were supplied and maintained solely by air. Ground support and fighter-bomber aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were brought in to airfields in Assam and North Bengal. Chief of the Army Staff General K Sundarji’s calculation was that if the Chinese were drawn to respond as they had done in 1962 and used lightly armed infantry to launch fast-moving, hard-hitting sweeps up to and around Indian positions, they could be stopped, surrounded and wiped out by superior Indian forces striking from prepared defensive bases – a tactic Gen Sundarjee called “encirclement/annihilation”. His strategy called also for limited counter-offensives into Tibet if the Chinese reacted in force, with the IAF in an infantry-support role, extending, if necessary to ensure control of the air, to raids on Chinese air force bases in Tibet. Sundarji’s battle scenario seems to have taken Viet Nam’s successful resistance to China’s invasion as exemplary : not long before he had led an Indian military delegation to Hanoi. 

 Figure 2 : Map of the incidence 

The Chinese heavily reinforced in Tibet, inducting field forces from Chengdu and Lanzhou, with fighter bombers and combat helicopters suited to operations at high altitudes. China – which has always had a large military presence in Tibet since its occupation – was said to have moved in 20,000 troops from the "53rd Army Corps in Chengdu and the 13th Army in Lanzhou" by early 1987 along with heavy artillery and helicopters. By early April, it had moved 8 divisions to eastern Tibet as a prelude to possible belligerent action. [ The Sumdorong Chu Incident, https://www.bharat-rakshak.com/ARMY/history/siachen/286-Sumdorong-Incident.html

The leadership in Beijing took no risks. There were unconfirmed reports at the time that the Indian army planned and prepared a divisional attack to clear the Chinese out of the Sumdurong Chu area; but twice, according to those reports, last-minute orders called off the attack. [ Neville Maxwell, China's Borders: Settlements and Conflicts, Cambridge scholars Publishing, 2014, PP 95 - 97 ] 

What were the lessons learnt? 

For China, it appears the standoff diverted the focus of attention from Aksai-chin to the Eastern sector, linking the two to any future solution of the border dispute. China also realized the futility of conflict with a determined, well prepared and well-equipped Indian Army. According to Keshav Mishra, "Overt display of military power had effectively neutralised any adventurist step" by China. Moreover, it was China that extended the ‘olive branch’ inviting Rajiv Gandhi to visit China in a bid to normalise the relations. In retrospect, the firm will of the GOI may have been instrumental in shaping China’s strategy of ‘a face saving pull out’ from Somdurong Chu. 

For India, it was a wakeup call. The Government of India immediately shifted focus on infrastructure development, logistic management, redeployment of additional resources and construction of airfields and advanced landing grounds in the North East, changing its policy of years of neglect of the erstwhile North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). As a beginning, India voted for statehood for NEFA and the new state of Arunachal Pradesh was created in December 1986. [Mandip Singh , Lessons from Somdurong Chu Incident, April 26, 2013, IDSA COMMENT, Available at : http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/CurrentChineseincursionLessonsfromSomdurongChuIncident_msingh_260413


SIGNALS AT SOMDURONG CHU 


Lieutenant Colonel O.P. Mehta was Commanding 5 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment. He was the last Lieutenant Colonel to command the unit before the command was upgraded to Colonel. He has the following to narrate in a discussion with Chairman Corps History Cell on 22 September 2016. 

Before taking over Command of 5 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel O.P. Mehta was posted as SO 2 (Communications) at Headquarters 2 Corps. He was handling introduction and use of all the latest communication equipments that were coming in Indian Army. When he went to 5 Mountain Division he found all the communication equipments were of older vintage fit to become museum pieces. All the radio relay equipments were of C41/R222 variety. The state of holding of signals equipment was poor. If the authorisation of multiplexing equipment ACT (1+4), 3A was 20, the unit held only three. Such was the state. He took up a massive effort to backload all obsolete equipments with the help of EME workshops and took up the case for introduction of new equipments. On his request the General Officer Commanding, 5 Mountain Division the then Major General JM Singh of GUARDS wrote a DO letter to General Officer Commanding 4 Corps highlighting the critical requirement of signals equipments. The then SO-in-C Lieutenant General RP Sapra, was an old hand in 5 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment and ensured all the latest equipments were sent to the unit to make up their deficiencies. Everyday they started receiving 3 Ton full loads of equiments, 100 Kilometers of carrier quad etc. 

Since the Division moved up to its operational location with formation and units of two division plus it was a herculean task to provide communications to all with the limited resources of one divisional signal regiment. For example the Artillery Brigade had 12 artillery units. 

The Commanding Officer had studied in details the 1962 Indo China War, how the second in command of 4 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment went in a chopper to find out what went wrong with the communications and got killed when the helicopter was brought down by the Chinese, how the commanding officer went to check the communications and become prisoner of war. He vowed that 1962 will never be repeated, there will never be a failure of communication failure for command elements. 

He went about the task methodically. A grid of carrier quad network was made to each brigade headquarters from divisional headquarters. This was duplicated by two lines of JWD-1 cable. The third tier of communications was made by radio relay communications. Another layer was provided by VHF with appropriated sighting of relay/anchor stations. All these were backed up by HF network. 

The Corps Commander Lieutenant General NS Narahari was very happy with the communication provided by the unit and commended the unit. 

The baloon ultimately did not go up. The preparation was completed. But the unit gained tremendous confidence. They believed, yes, we can do it. Credit goes to the officers, JCOs and men of 5 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

HISTORY OF THE CORPS OF SIGNALS

1. The History of Corps of Signals has been published in the following parts :-

(a) History of The Corps of Signals Volume-I (Early Times to Outbreak of Second World War in 1939).

(b) History of The Corps of Signals Volume-II (From outbreak of World War II (1939) to Partition & Independence (1947).

(c) History of The Corps of Signals Volume-III (Covering the First 25 Years of the Post-Independence History of the Corps from 1947-72).

History of The Corps of Signals Volume-I (Early Times to Outbreak of Second World War 1939) 

2. The Volume-I covers the history of the Corps from its birth in 1911 to the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The brief history of signalling from early times to the present days has also been included, as a background.

3. The major portion of the book is devoted to the activities of units of the Corps of Signals in various theatres in which the Indian Army fought in World War I (France, Mesopotamia and East Africa) and subsequently in miscellaneous operations in Egypt, Palestine, Persia, Mesopotamia (later Iraq) and Aden. Major changes in organisation, training and developments in communications that occurred in the period between the two World Wars have been included, along with the activities of the Corps in the North West Frontier and various other theatres where formations of the Indian Army were periodically deployed.

4. An introductory paragraph giving the polkitical and military circumstances leading to the outbreak of World War I have been added at the beginning of Chapter-4 (World War I – France 1914-15), on the recommendation of the author.

History of The Corps of Signals Volume-II (From outbreak of World War II (1939) to Partition & Independence (1947). 

5. The Volume-II covers the history of the Indian Signal Corps from the outbreak of World War II in 1939 to the attainment of Independence by India in 1947. The major portion of the book is devoted to the activities of units of the Corps of Signals in various theatres in which the Indian Army fought in World War-II, including the Middle East (North and East Africa), Italy, Greece, West Asia (Iraq, Iran and Syria), and South-East Asia (Malaya and Burma). In addition, post World War II operations in Japan, French Indo-China, Thailand, Malaya, Netherlands East Indies and Iraq and miscellaneous operations in North West Frontier, Sind and Ceylon are also covered in brief. Important aspects relating to organisation, training, development in communications, Indianisation, partition and independence have also been included. 

6. Certain subjects such as regimental institutions and unit histories have been included in the appendices, with their coverage extending from 1911 to 1947. Another appendix is the Roll of Honour, which comprises the list of personnel who died in both World Wars.

History of The Corps of Signals Volume-III (Covering the First 25 Years of the Post-Independence History of the Corps from 1947-72).


7. The Volume-III of the History of the Corps of Signals of the Indian Army, covering the first 25 years of the post Independence history of the Corps from 1947 to 1972. The first volume, published in 1975, covered the period from the birth of the Corps in 1911 to the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The second volume, published in 2006, covered the period from 1939 to the partition and independence of India in 1947.

8. The major portion of the book is devoted to the activities of units of the Corps of Signals in major wars fought by the Indian Army after Independence viz. the Jammu & Kashmir operations of 1947-48; and the Indo Pak wars of 1965 and 1971. It also covers the Hyderabad operation of 1948, the Goa operation in 1961, the skirmish at Nathu La in Sikkim 1967 and various operations undertaken under the aegis of the United Nations. Apart from the performance of the Corps in operations, other aspects such as organisations, personnel, training, equipment, developments in signal communications and regimental institutions have also been covered.

9. Brief unit histories have been included in an appendix, along with the names of the commanding officers. Other important appendices are the roll of honour, which gives the names of those who died in action; and the honours & awards, which lists signallers decorated for gallantry and distinguished service. 

10. Since the records of the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 have still not been declassified, the chapter dealing with these operations does not form part of this Volume. It is intended to print it separately as a supplement, which can be added to the book at a future date, when records are declassified.

History of The Corps of Signals Volume-IV

11. The History of Corps of Signals from 1973 to 2000 is under preparation.

12. The Vol - IV is proposed to be covered in the following chapters : -

Chapter 1  Major Conflicts – OPERATION PAWAN at Sri Lanka and OPERATION VIJAY at Kargil 

Chapter 2 Miscellenous Operations – Operation Sumdorong Chu, Operation Blue Star, Operation Meghdoot, Operations Vajrang and Rhino, Other Counter Insurgency Operations including J&K Operations (Operation Rakshak) 

Chapter 3 Transformation of the Corps. Introduction of PLAN AREN, ASCON, Electronic Warfare, Tropo Scetter Communications, Satellite Communication, AWAN, Introduction of COTS Equipment, raising of units like EMI/EMC, Army Software Development Cell(ASDC), Army HQ Computer Center(AHCC) etc.

Chapter 4  Signals in UN Peace Keeping Operations 

Chapter 5  Signals as part of Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles in active CI Operations 

Chapter 6 Miscellaneous Operations 

Chapter 7 Organisational Changes 

Chapter 8 Introduction of new Equipment and Technologies 

Chapter 9  Training 

Chapter 10  Regimental Institution, Sports & Adventure.

APPENDICES 

Appendix 1  Unit Histories 

Appendix 2  Roll of Honour 

Appendix 3  Honours & Awards 

Appendix 4  List of Abbreviations 

Appendix 5  List of Maps 

Appendix 6  Bibliography

13. The above chapters are only proposed at the preliminary stage. Depending on the inputs and feedbacks obtain from environment the chapters can be suitably amended/ modified.

14. All types of inputs in the form of memoirs, personal anecdotes, photographs, organisation and its changes, personalities, eqpt profile and any other material may please be sent to : 

Corps History Cell
C/O 1 Army HQ Signal Regiment
Rao Tula Ram Marg, Signals Enclave 
PIN - 110010

Email : corpshistorycell@gmail.com

Facebook : Page Under Construction.

15. In case of difficulty of sending any material concerning the history of the Corps of Signals (1973-2000) we will arrange collection from your place. 

16. We will be posting the draft chapters in the the blogsite. All are requested give comments, any observation on factual details, photographs, addition/ alterations so that the individual chapters become complete in all respects.