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India China war: India recovers from the shock of nail-studded clubs, gets ready to get even

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After reports of Chinese soldiers using spike-studded clubs to maim and kill Indian Armymen left the defence establishment shell-shocked, the Army has reportedly begun taking steps to make sure that its men are never again caught in such nasty surprises.

According to a report, the Northern Command of the Army has already started to kit its men in lightweight riot gear. In an article in Indian Today, senior defence reporter Sandeep Unnithan revealed that the new gear is made of padded polycarbonate inserts, and can keep the wearer safe from “sharp objects and stones” — to be precise, the very weapons that reportedly took a severe toll on the Indian side at the heights of Galwan on that fateful June 15 night.

As many as 500 such outfits have already been sent to Leh by a Mumbai company to be given to forward-deployed Indian soldiers, the report said.

ET Online, however, was unable to independently verify either about the new outfit for Indian border patrol or about the Mumbai supplier.

Modern war, medieval weapon

The PLA in fact took a leaf out of a World War I battle manual when they chose nail-studded clubs and stones to attack the Indian soldiers. During World War I, both the rival sides (Allied powers and the Central powers) were known to attack each other on occasions with crude medieval weapons.

Such weapons, designed to inflict serious physical damage, included “clubs studded with spikes and barbed wire and trench knives — a long knife with a studded metal handguard”, the India Today report recalls.

The PLA reportedly made these crude weapons a regular feature during this series of border standoffs with the Indian Army. According to reports, clubs wrapped with barbed wire were used by the Chinese side in last month’s Pangong Lake scuffles as well, leaving several Indian soldiers seriously injured.

Why sticks and stones

The report also offered an explanation of the likely Chinese thought process behind using such weapons. India-China rules of engagement include keeping “peace and tranquility” at the border, which both sides interpret as “not using firearms”. To that extent, wounding Indian soldiers with nail-studded sticks didn’t violate norms outright, because no shot was fired.

The last time there was firing on the LAC was 45 years ago when the Chinese ambushed and slew four Assam Rifles personnel. Both sides stopped brandishing guns following the boundary agreement of 1993; since then, there have been many incidences of fist fights and wrestling, but never a gunfight on the Sino-Indian border.

However, following the entry of sticks and stones into the scene, there is no telling what form border engagements may now take.

Meanwhile, there is also talk of supplying similar spike-studded clubs to the Indian men on the border. India won’t be caught unawares the next time, the report quoted an army officer as saying.

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