Previous Part1015 Hours
13th November 2012
India

DM finished reading the thick 100+ page file that contained bulk of agreements signed between India and China, closed his eyes and leaned back on his chair. He had been working like a mule for last two weeks and it was the first moment in many days when he felt that he could relax. Even then, he couldn’t help but think about the deal that was about to be finalised with Chinese. Initially, Chinese negotiations team was really stubborn and inflexible, but Indians were quite a match for them and had succeeded in getting a favourable agreement after mostly acrimonious talks that lasted almost a week. But owing to unprecedented extraordinary circumstances, it was finalized in a record time.

As was expected, the talks had started in a very hostile environment. Chinese armed forces had suffered horrendous losses without much to show for it. Additionally, they had been forced to cede ground to supposedly numerically and technically inferior enemy. Their humiliation was made even worse by the capture of 2 nuclear missiles along with 100s of soldiers and capture of an intact nuclear submarine followed by sinking of another two even before the hostilities had begun. Unlike the conflict in J&K-Tibet; area that followed later, these incidents had been milked to their last drops by Indians on world stage. PLA officers which formed the bulk of Chinese negotiations team were none too happy for that. They had shown their displeasure over what was termed as”lack of maturity and foresight” by India, which was promptly rebutted by their Indian counterparts.

As was expected, Chinese had brought up every outstanding issue including status of Tibetan rebels, Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin etc., many of which had little to do with the task at hand. These tactics were meant to throw Indians off the guard but Indians too had good experience in such matters and the negotiations had dragged on for days before USA and Russia had put in all of their resources forcing the two belligerent nations to hammer out a compromise. Chinese were loathe to admit that India had successfully used tactical nuclear weapons on four of their bases and had vigorously denied all such reports. India on it’s part maintained a stony silence. But within days of the attack, proofs to this effect had been released in public domain. There was much brouhaha in the usual circles, bringing even more pressure to get an effective ceasefire.

Chinese had agreed to Indian claim on Pakistan occupied part of J&K; earlier, but balked and nearly walked out when Indians staked their claim on Shaksgam Valley and Aksai Chin. Indians on their part pointed out that Shaksgam valley was more or less under Indian control and so was almost 40% of Aksai Chin. Indian offensive had been halted just a few 10s of KMs from the vital Chinese National Highway 219. But Chinese in spite of putting in best of their efforts had been unable to push back Indians from any front except a couple.
After much heated and prolonged talks, Chinese had agreed to hand over control of Shaksgam Valley to India, in exchange of Indian pull back in Aksai Chin which was hotly contested by Indians leading to another deadlock. This was broken off after much haggling and heart burn on both sides.
After many such deadlocks, gist of some important agreements were:

1) All of J&K; except Aksai Chin under Indian control. All of Pakistan occupied J&K; and Shaksgam Valley under sovereign Indian control accompanied by removal of all Chinese personnel from these areas.

2) India withdraws forces from Aksai Chin back to their previous positions. Indian team spent longest amount of time on this as the territorial gains made in the sector was substantial. . Indians agreed to only a partial withdraw and refused to abandon their new and advantageous positions The issue was not solved to satisfaction of either party and left for future talks.

3) Assurance by both nations over non-interference in each other’s internal conflicts. In nutshell, all Indian support to Tibetan rebels inside China ceases. Similarly, China stops supporting Naxals and separatist groups in north-east India.

4) In spite of their best efforts, Indians were unable to get anything agreed upon Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh. The matter too was left undecided pending further discussions.

5) Unconditional release of all the prisoners from both sides. Considering that Chinese formed almost all of the group, they were rather keen on it and willing to get it over with as soon as possible. The issue of two nuclear missiles and submarine was contested by India as winner’s right to the war trophy. India later agreed to hand over the weapon systems back to China (after suitable investigations).

6) Chinese delegation was put under considerable pressure by Indians over the issue of extradition and trial of Chinese personnel responsible for nuclear attack on India. India never had any kind of extradition treaty with China and they used this loophole to wriggle free. Only consolation available to India were assurances “set in stone” that the guilty people will be tried and punished under international observation

After a while DM opened his eyes and called for Defence Secretary Pillai. He was one of the most senior members from the Indian negotiations team and had drafted a significant part of the recently signed agreement himself. DM had picked up the file again and was leafing through the pages when he entered. Pillai greeted the minister and waited for him to speak. DM put the file down and said, ” “Well Pillai jee. Seems like we’ve done not a really bad job after all .”

“Not the best, but could’ve done worse. Got most of what we wanted in J&K;, but couldn’t get anything done on Arunachal and extradition. A mixed bag if you ask me.”

DM nodded, ” Nobody ever gets everything. They refuse to handover those criminals, we refuse to go back from Aksai Chin.”

Pillai looked at the file on table and said, “That’s what is troubling me. Don’t you think that it’ll provoke them in to engaging even more mischief than usual.”

DM stood up and walked to the window of his office. After staring outside for a while, he turned and faced DS., “We’ve been dealing with their mischief for decades now. One time we stood up to their bullying, they back down like a whipped dog. After what we’ve gone through, I’m not afraid of anything. If they have any problem with our attitude, too bad mate. But that’s how things are going to be from now on. ”

A surprised grin formed on Pillai’s face as he heard somewhat undiplomatic words coming out of possible Prime Minister of India. “So, we’re signing it right now ? ”

DM nodded, ” Yes. No point in delaying it further. I also need you to prepare a press release and a speech for the press conference. I’ll need you besides me there. ”

“Yes sir.” Pillai stood up to take his leave.

Epilogue

3 February 2013
BNT News Release

Emergency workers and rescuers have found no trace of General Kong and retired CPC member An Wang, after the yacht they were sailing in disappeared in South China sea, just a few KM away from coastal city of Shantou . Till now, only parts of the yacht have been discovered floating just a few km from the area where it was last reported to be 36 hours before. It had lost contact with mainland and other ships in middle of the night during a low intensity rain storm.
Search for the yacht and it’s occupants is still going on. According to one rescue worker, it’s nearly impossible for a yacht of that size to disappear just like that without any one seeing it at least once. Each passing moment with no trace of survivors makes any chance of their survival extremely bleak.

Although it was never declared publicly, these two were some of the senior most Chinese officials forced to resign from their posts over the role they had allegedly played in incidents that had lead to a nuclear conflict with India.

6th February 2013
Xinhua News Agency

3 PLA personnel lost their lives in a tragic road accident in Dagze. a small town near Lhasa. Dead include General Chan , his aide Major Kong and driver Corporal Fai. According to witnesses, Corporal Fai lost control of the car they were traveling in while negotiating a sharp turn and hit a road barrier. The car turned turtle on hitting the barrier and rolled down the slope to the gorge below killing all it’s occupants on the spot. Their bodies have been recovered and sent to their families for last rites.
General Chang just had just assumed command of PLA’s Dagze supply base and was on an familiarisation tour when the mishap occurred.

1223 Hours
8th Feruary 2013
PM’s Office
New Delhi, India

NSA chief Angad, entered the office of India’s newest PM and handed him a file, “Last night, Chinese forces again shelled some of our posts in Aksai Chin. No causalities, but seems like that they are making a routine of it.”

“I suppose, some people in China are getting scared.” PM Shivendra smiled and started browsing through the file. “What is going on with our Tibetan friends ?”

“They’re getting restless now. They say that they’ve been lying low for long enough. I think they are right. They’ve had ample time to train, regroup and gather supplies.”

PM nodded, “I know. Tell them to wait just a little bit more. Also send my personal thanks for their help in our little mission in Dagze. They deserve whatever we can offer them.”

Angad nodded his head in agreement and stood up to leave. Apparently, war was not over yet.

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Previous Part

0100 Hours
6th November 2012
Somewhere In India

Just like the last time, Chinese President came to the point of interest immediately, “Mr. Angad, I must strongly protest your army’s actions in Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley. I thought that we had an agreement on not escalating the violence till we catch and punish the criminals on our side. “

DM Angad shot back, ” Are you that ignorant of what your military is doing right in front of you or are you just playing with us Mr. Peng ? Also, our armed forces are acting under our direct orders and our orders were to not to take any further attack lying down. Your army attacked us without any provocation near Shaksgam Valley, then fired 16 cruise missiles at us. You think that we’ll take all that provocations lying down ? I had warned you earlier against any further misadventure which you ignored.”

“That helicopter of yours was shot down by some over zealous guards when it seemed like it was going to cross over to our side. It was an honest mistake.”

DM grind his teeth in anger, ” Honest mistake ! Your men not only shot down the helicopter which was 10s of KMs away from territory occupied by you, but also ambushed our soldiers who went out to help the survivors. Your men were no ordinary border guards. They were well trained special forces operatives and were under specific instructions to sabotage and harass our military personnel. We have their dead bodies and identity papers to show for it. Don’t you lie with me on this one Mr. Peng. We all know who was responsible for what.”
Seeing uncomfortable the look on other people’s faces present in room, DM took a deep breath to calm himself then continued, “Even if you were not at fault there, who is going to take responsibility for firing off 16 missiles at us ? Was that one of your investigative tactics ? “

Chinese President answered with a menace in his voice, ” I don’t think that you understand what is at stake here. Your country has already suffered one nuclear attack. I don’t even want to imagine what a full fledged nuclear war will do to your beautiful nation. “

This was the last straw for DM who shot up from his chair and hissed in to the mouthpiece, ” If you are blackmailing us with your nuclear toys, then you’ll do well to remember the fate of your Pakistani poodles. They tried playing the same game with us and see what that brought for them.You make one stupid move and I swear that your fate will be worse than Pakis. You must be extremely naive to think that I’m making empty threats.”
All the pretense of diplomatic speech was gone from the conversation.

Seeing the move backfiring, Chinese Pres immediately changed track , ” I hope you understand that we are not fighting over a personal issue here. Lives of one-thirds of the world’s population are at stake here. Any hot-headed decision will be catastrophic for the whole world. “

” Please don’t lecture me on this. It became personal for me and for everybody else when we saw more than thirty thousand fellow Indians burn to death in an instant. What surprises me that you still have the gall to call and threaten us.”

Chinese President’s voice assumed a conciliatory tone, “I completely understand what your country is going through, but you must understand that the attack was a conspiracy between Pakistanis and a few Chinese rogue elements. We can’t let isolated incidents disrupt peace when so much is at stake.”

“I’ll tell you what is at stake for you. If you don’t agree to what we demand, then be ready to say good bye to your China as you know it. With Pakistan, we limited our strikes to military targets. We wouldn’t be so considerate in your case. Every single city of your’s in our range will be burnt to ashes. I’ll personally start the massacre by firing off your two missiles that we captured from Gilgit. I had warned you of what we are capable of in our last conversation and trust me, I’ll do exactly that. “

“We’ll do exactly what we agreed upon in our previous conversation, as soon as you call back your soldiers from our territory.”

DM answered with a twisted smile, ” I’m sorry to say it to you, but Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley don’t belong to China anymore. Even as we talk, our soldiers are pushing back yours to reclaim what’s rightfully ours.”

“We don’t have much time to play such games. I’m requesting you to put an end to hostilities and recall your soldiers. Otherwise things will get nasty real quick.”

Ignoring the threat DM continued, “I hear Tibetans and Uighurs are giving you lots of trouble. Also, US is right at your throat over that Taiwanese F-16 incident. I suggest you forget about Aksai Chin and Shaksgam and concentrate on rest of your trouble spots.”

“You must know that we have the capability of doing much worse with your dissidents than what you can do with ours.” was the predictable reply, which most people in the room just shrugged off.

Everyone in the room watched the verbal duel between the two leaders with bated breaths. Indian blitzkrieg in two sectors had routed the Chinese defences. In Aksai Chin, two pronged attack by Indian mountain divisions had over run most of their defensive strongholds and taken control of vital highways that Chinese had constructed. Indians had preferred bypassing Chinese forces and encircling them wherever possible instead of engaging in pitched battles. Shaksgam Valley which had only token military presence too was overrun without much trouble. Guerrilla attacks by Tibetan rebels helped in no less deal by SFF had disrupted Chinese supply lines and thrown most of their battle plans out of order. Even if PLA succeeded in pushing Indians back over the next few days, it’d still be a major embarrassment for much hyped Chinese military might. And as of now, PLA looked too disorganized and disoriented even to put up a decent fight.
Indians had been bracing up for an attack further south in Arunachal Pradesh, but so far the fight had been limited to artillery duels with neither side committing to a full scale fight, which suited India just fine.
After the successive setbacks, Chinese had at realised their own precarious position and were looking for a way to save their face. Everybody knew that Chinese President was on phone only because he was on the verge of a very embarrassing defeat.
His aggressive posturing was nothing more than false bravado and attempts of intimidation, which had no effect on Indians. Seeing all of his attempts of bullying Indian leadership in to submission, Peng changed tracks.

“Listen Mr Angad. We all realize that a war is not in our interest. We need to end the conflict before it expands and turns nastier. Nuclear weapons have already been used. So far, only military targets have been attacked but you know we have to end this before either of us are forced in to some thing even more destructive. We need to wind all this down”

DM leaned back on his chair and looked around the room at the people surrounding him and spoke, “What are you offering us ?”

0700 Hours
6th November 2012

BREAKING NEWS

India and China have both agreed to a ceasefire to the conflict which was threatening to put the world on brink of a nuclear war. The news has come as a major relief to whole of the world as the battles between two nuclear armed rivals started to escalate and spread to multiple fronts.Both nations have agreed to cease hostilities and hold immediate negotiations to resolve their disputes. A Chinese delegation will land in New Delhi within next few hours to this effect.

As many of our viewers already know, India had accused China of hatching a conspiracy which culminated with 2 nuclear missiles being launched from Pakistan, one of which killed more than 25000 people in Rajasthan. Other missile targeted towards Mumbai was intercepted and destroyed in midair by Indian home grown missile defence system.

In retaliation, India had launched a massive nuclear and conventional weapons based attack on Pakistan which all but wiped out Pakistan from world map, causing millions of causalities. Hours after the attack, Indian military had captured a Chinese nuclear submarine just a few KM south of Gawadar port and two Chinese nuclear tipped ICBMs from a tunnel near Gilgit from Pakistan controlled part of J&K.; Based upon the evidence collected, India had accused one senior member of CPC identified as Admiral (retd) Xedong of masterminding the nuclear attack on Indian soil. China had first rejected Indian demands of handing over Admiral Xedong and 7 other CPC and PLA officers and put Admiral Xedong in custody. Xedong was considered by many to be one of the likely candidates for the chair of Chinese president after Peng’s terms got over next year in August. Massive riots had broken out in many Chinese cities after news of Xedong’s death in custody had leaked out.

Two days after the incident, advancing Indian forces in Pak occupied Kashmir were involved in a conflict with Chinese forces near Shaksgam valley. The small fire fight quickly escalated in to something much worse as China launched more than a dozen cruise missiles at Indian bases in J&K;, causing serious damage to Leh airfield. In retaliation, India attacked dozens of Chinese bases in Aksai Chin and Tibet. Although, both sides are tight lipped about it right now, some reports suggest that India used at least two nuclear tipped missiles in the attack.
Chinese forces in the area which were already battling resurgent Tibetan and Uighur rebels were unable to withstand the subsequent blitzkrieg of Indian air and ground attack and were forced to abandon their positions in Shaksgam Valley and Aksai Chin.

According to experts, Chinese forces were stretched too thin due to their ongoing operations against domestic insurgency which had disrupted their supply lines in the remote and rough terrain. Additionally, Chinese government had came under immense international pressure after another conflict with Taiwan and USA seemed imminent brought upon by downing of Taiwanese F-16 fighter plane by a Chinese warship. After the incident USA had dispatched two of it’s CBGs to help Taiwan defend itself against any further Chinese aggression.
Although no official confirmation has come in yet, it’s believed that Indian, Chinese and US submarines were involved in a shooting match east of Andaman islands which resulted in sinking of at least one Chinese submarine.
All of this has seemed to helped Indian forces in their war with China as they overran Chinese defences in Shaksgam Valley and parts of Aksai Chin, before their advance slowed down due to pressure on their supply lines and fierce Chinese resistance. Before the declaration of ceasefire, Indian forces in Aksai Chin had penetrated up to 110 km in some sectors

Right now, it’s unclear whether India will hand over the captured territory back to China. Although China has agreed to Indian claim on Pakistan controlled part of J&K;, both parties remained tight lipped over the Chinese controlled areas. It’s quite likely that India will drive a hard bargain with China over it and probably try to get a favourable agreement on long standing border disputes. Considering that Indians have a fully weaponised Chinese nuclear submarine and crew along with at least 350 Chinese soldiers and civilians in their custody, it seems that they will have an upper hand during the negotiations. Also under present circumstances, world opinion seems more or less to be on Indian side. Though it remains to be seen how it’ll affect the negotiations . 

Previous Part

0120 Hours
5 November 2012
Phalcon AWACS
Skies Over Laddakh

The incident caused a fair amount of heart burn inside Chinese military. In spite of being stretched to the limit by Uighur and Tibetan rebels, PLA still had formidable offensive firepower at it’s disposal and Mission Controller onboard Indian Phalcon AWACS was first to notice it when Chinese launched a large salvo of their much hyped DH-11 long range cruise missiles. Phalcon’s radar had detected the missiles while they were still 7-8 minutes away from Leh and the crew was sending out warnings frantically.

Mission controller aboard Indian Phalcon AWACS was shouting in to the mouthpiece, ” Lima this is Eagle Eye, we have 16 confirmed DH-11 inbound right at your position. I repeat, 16 DH-11 inbound at your position. Take cover immediately.”

In what could be considered a mixed bag, All of Chinese missiles were launched from a single location. Sabotage by Tibetan rebels, while not entirely successful had still affected Chinese military significantly. In ideal conditions, Chinese would have launched a larger number of missiles from a wide encircling arc, confusing the defenders and saturating their air defense assets. But owing to shortage of missiles and safe places from where to launch, they were forced to launch all missiles from a single location. Although it made the job of tracking these missiles somewhat easier, it also meant that the air defenses in that particular corridor will be overwhelmed and atleast some of the missiles will pass through unscathed.

Although important, such thoughts were hardly going through any body’s mind on the besieged base. Instead they were working furiously to meet the attack head on and save whatever they could before launching a counter attack. The base was operating at war level and all the civilian traffic was already stopped. The runway was being used exclusively by military transporters and fighter jets which immediately scrambled in to air within a minute of the warning. The planes which could not take to air were moved to underground bunkers and rest moved as far away from the base as possible. 6 more Mig 29s fully fuelled and armed joined 4 others which were already on CAP duty. All this while crews of air defence wing waited tensely for the Chinese missiles to come within their kill radius. Owing to it’s high strategic value, Leh airbase had received some serious defence upgrades consisting of multiple Akash and SPYDER SAMs placed all around as well as inside the base. It was going to be the first trial in combat for both of the systems.

An Akash battery placed in Chapo, nearly 110 Km forward of the base was first to acquire a lock on incoming bandits. 12 SAMs arose almost simultaneously to intercept first of DH-11 which were flying just 10s of metres above the mountain peaks
Of the 12 missiles launched at 7 different cruise missiles, 4 found their targets while the rest missed. Some failed as they lost lock on target amongst mountains, while the rest exploded harmlessly after their target was destroyed by another missile. By the time crews could reload the launchers, remaining DH-11s were already out of their kill zone or passed by without ever coming in range.

Another Akash battery placed in Arganglas took out another 5, but that still left out 7 DH-11s which moved on to their terminal phase as they neared their designated targets. People still left in the city now watched as 7 white streaks came in from the north. Short ranged SPYDER missiles rose to intercept these and managed to knock out 3 before first of the cruise missiles found it’s target and hit the runway. The warhead consisted of runway denial explosives and damaged it enough to stop all aircraft landings and takeoffs for hours if not days. Another missile probably targeted at the helicopter wing missed it’s aim and crashed in to the War Memorial just a few meters north of it. Although the helicopter hangars suffered some damage, losses were not high as most of the equipment and personnel were already away from the area. Third missile was hit by the radar guided AAA fire and crashed outside the airport in a civilian populated area causing dozens of causalities. Last of the missiles escaped all the last ditch AAA fire and hit the underground pens of Mig 29s. But the structures were made to handle exactly such kind of hits and the damage was minimal.

Considering the amount of firepower launched to take it out, the base had escaped virtually unscathed. Only serious damage was to the runway which was put out of order for a few hours. None of the aircrafts and other vital assets were damaged. Four Mig 29s which were on CAP duty earlier were starting to get a bit low on the fuel and were diverted to Srinagar.

While Indian personnel in the base worked to repair the damage, others elsewhere started on their missions to inflict at least equal if not more pain to Chinese for yet another attack. Work on a counter attack had begun as soon as the warnings of incoming missiles had come in. By the time last of the Chinese missiles had been cleared out of skies, Indian missile crews were ready with their own reply. Although Chinese had a seemingly overwhelming quantitative advantage over Indians, civil war inside two provinces and escalating conflict with Taiwan-US and tensions with Russia had stretched their resources to the limits. Thus providing Indians with a fighting chance if they planned their moves right.
India had already declared it’s willingness to go nuclear against China in face of any more provocations and thus replied back in a way that few people anywhere had ever expected.
Within minutes of Chinese attack, Indians had launched their own Shaurya hypersonic cruise missiles. Although Chinese too had fairly robust air defense systems in form of S300 ABM, sheer scale of attack overwhelmed their defenses, helped in no less deal by the uniqueness of a hypersonic cruise missile. Of 19 missiles launched, 13 found their targets. Unlike Chinese, Indians had spread their choice of targets on multiple bases and the effects on Chinese military capability in those areas were crippling. Most of their military bases north of J&K; in Tibet were hit with conventional explosive warheads, except for 4 which were annihilated with nuclear bunker busters. Those bases were suspected to be store Chinese nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
Chinese military assets in Aksai Chin were given special attention. Two whole Chinese Rapid Reaction Force divisions had been mobilized in to the region to thwart any Indian offensive and these took brunt of the damage. Chinese edge in armoured part was more or less neutralised, first by three conventional missile strikes, then by bombing raids by Jaguars which followed minutes later.
The disproportionate response by Indians dealt a crippling blow on Chinese ability to wage war in Laddakh-Tibet sector and they needed to move fast in order to capitalize on it. Compared to Aksai Chin, Shaksgam Valley area was lightly defended. One reason was it’s previous border with ally Pakistan and another was it’s difficult mountainous terrain. Anything needed to maintain strong defensive positions in the area was prohibitively expensive and difficult like hell. For Indians, biggest hurdle in Shaksgam Valley was weather and terrain. On the other hand, comparatively flatter terrain of Aksai Chin was more conductive to troop movements and pitched battles both by armour as well as infantry. Both India and China had strong military presence along this border. Although Chinese had better roads and were numerically stronger, precision missile and air strikes had neutralized much of their offensive capability.
After near complete destruction of Pakistani military, Indian armed forces were feeling confident enough to move most of their Pakistan centric defenses towards the China border, thus strengthening their position vis-a-vis Chinese.It was only 2-3 hours after the Chinese cruise missile attack that the first of Indian soldiers entered the Indian territory illegally held by China.

Previous Part

1655 Hours
4 November 2012
Forward Army HQ
Turtok, 101 KM North East of Leh

Advancing Indian forces in Pak occupied Kashmir were facing logistical nightmares of highest magnitude possible. Except for occasional pot shots few left-over jihadis and defiant Paki army personnel, resistance they were facing was almost non-existent. But most of their problems were related to terrain and shortage of transports. Nobody had really planned for such operations and as such decisions that would require months if not weeks of careful planning and setting up of logistics chains were being made on the spot based upon vague assurances of speedy resupplies from distant HQs. There were very few operational roads connecting the two parts of divided state and those were swamped with panicked refugees trying to stream in to India. Relief camps had to be setup to help the civilians and in India which other organisations except army is expected to deal with the mess !

Civilian administration of J&K;, inspite of all it’s lofty talks of love between the divided people and porous border whines had simply washed it’s hands off the whole mess expecting army to do the dirty work. Thankfully for army commanders, DM had personally intervened and sent some stern messages to state’s CM to share the workload, thus freeing up resources desperately needed by army elsewhere. Even then, rush of refugees was hindering work as their miles long caravans clogged up few motorable roads, leaving army with little choice except helicopters to transport men and supplies. The fact that the bulk of fleet was busy strengthening defences against China was just another inconvenience.
The hectic work detail was taking it’s toll on helicopter crews. Ferrying men and precious cargo always has been their job and most claimed to enjoy it. But doing the same round the clock without rest in war like conditions in unfamiliar territory is enough to cause fatigue even in best of the lot. And fatigue causes mistakes which could prove disastrous. CO of Turtok base, Colonel Mudabar Chidambaram base was more than aware of the fact and was trying his level best to ease the workload. But his efforts were not proving enough. His small base was inundated with frantic requests of supplies from various quarters and he couldn’t do anything except send the pilots on one more sortie, one after another.
He knew for a fact that his luck wouldn’t hold out for long and the feeling was making him queasy. Although all the pilots under his command were highly trained professionals, there was a limit to which they could be pushed.

The base was first started as part of Operation Sadbhavna by Indian Army in it’s mission to help the locals by setting up much needed medical camps, schools and vocational training centers. The rugged area had little contact with rest of the world and the for ethnic Balti tribals of the area, work done by the army was the only thing that they could identify as governance. The base had first started off as a small helipad where helicopters from Leh landed carrying supplies to be distributed in surrounding areas. It was still exactly like that when hostilities broke out and as such, it’s meager resources and infrastructure were overwhelmed in a matter of hours.

Although it was only three days since the nature of work at base had changed, for Col Mudabar it seemed like another lifetime. A large portion of the local population had been evacuated except a few who stubbornly stayed back to for various reasons, mostly related to their livelihood. Right now, instead of friendly locals, base was swarming with tense armed forces personnel.

The first signal that some of his worst fears were coming true when the communications officer reported loss of contact with one of Mi 17 helicopters approximately 10 Km south of Shaksgam Valley, in control of China.
The area had always been one of the most difficult to operate in. It was covered with some of the highest and least accessible mountain peaks with little human habitation and sustaining infrastructure. Even Pakistan didn’t place any significant military resources there considering the high cost and the fact that they had gifted away surrounding areas to China. They lacked will and resources to control the area anyway.
In a war to capture the territory, this would most probably an advantage for the attackers, but not in this case. After near complete surrender and abandonment of posts by Pakistani Rangers and army, Indian army was obliged to fill up the gap. But lack of any dependable infrastructure, roads etc. was a major impediment to their efforts to establish control over the region. But the most worrying aspect of the situation was nearly certain war with China. The area needed massive influx of Indian forces in shortest time possible and the many choppers like the old workhorse Mi 17 were flying back to back missions, dropping men and supplies.
Loss of radio contact was not an uncommon phenomena in such areas. Not all of the machines had modern communication systems on board and thus were prone to communication blackouts under certain conditions. Although, most of the time it was some non-critical problem related to comms gear, it always increased the heartbeats of people involved. It didn’t happen very often, but whenever it happened, it sure subtracted a few minutes of life from everyone connected to the mission.
Currently the base was experiencing one similar situation. A Mi-17 transport helicopter with call sign Mike11 was on a sortie to drop some much needed supplies and ammunition for advancing Indian troops on an mission to consolidate their newly won positions in PoK, some 4 Km south of Chinese controlled Shaksgam Valley. Due to bad weather in area, pilot had lost his way and there had been no communication since last 15 minutes. As usual, Col Mudabar was personally coordinating the flights and the creases on his forehead were getting deeper with every passing second. Each passing moment brought the night closer and there were less than a hour before it became impossible for pilots to navigate without night vision devices.
Communication people on ground were frantically calling the lost helicopter without pause as other helicopters landed or took off with their crew and cargo. But there had been no response till now.

“Any luck contacting Major Kale yet ?” he asked one of the comms engineers. Missing chopper was on it’s way to drop the supplies for Major Kale’s team and there had been no contact with him either. The answer was negative and Col. Mudabar grimaced on hearing it. “What the hell is going on down there ?” he asked loudly to nobody in particular.
“Shall we send another chopper to search for them ?” the question was asked by a burly Jaat subedar, most of whose whose duties till date had been loading and unloading of helicopters.

“Do you have one lying spare for the job ?” Col snapped back annoyed. Subedar was slightly confused by the reply and was about to answer something when the voice of Major Kale came alive on radio. There was lots of static and the comms engineer had to fiddle quite a bit with the radio knobs to make the transmission audible. Col snatched the mouthpiece at once and asked Major Kale, “What’s going on out there Major ? Where are you guys and where is our Mi17 ?”

Major Kale had to shout to get himself heard, “We were attacked. lost the chopper and ….” rest of the transmission was lost as his voice was overcome by the static.
But it was enough to give a pause to everybody within earshot. Only Col Mudabar seemed unaffected and he took control of the radio himself, shouting in to the mouthpiece , trying to contact Major again. He seemed slightly relieved when Kale came back on air again. His story was just as bad as his first line. Major Kale’s team was at an unnamed location, simply known as Point 4677, nearly 3 KM south of Shaksgam Valley awaiting the chopper to drop supplies. The Mi17 had come in almost right at time and was hovering and dropping supply crates when a MANPAD was launched from a hill in north taking down the copper like a brick. Only the co-pilot had survived, that too with broken legs and crushed ribs. The army team rushed to the stricken helicopter to rescue any survivors when they came under heavy machine gun and grenade fire. Two soldiers were immediately killed and 3 more injured before they were able to take cover and fire back. But the attackers had advantage of surprise and better positions. Indians had lost 5 more soldiers before they could disengage and find better positions.

Survivors had to fall back and had nothing to help them with reinforcements or extraction for quite some time to come in a unfamiliar and hostile territory. Col Mudabar slammed the mouthpiece down on the table in frustration and looked around to worried faces around him. Gesturing with his eyes and hands he ordered everybody else to get on with their work while he took up the radio again to contact his seniors.

Help for ambushed Indian team came in an unexpected way. It just happened that three prototypes of indigenous Light Combat Helicopter were finishing their high altitude weapon trials in Leh when hostilities broke out. LCH was supposed to provide heavy mobile firepower in scenarios just like this one. All the trials had went on well to match or even exceed the expectations. So, the proposal of the senior test pilot to perform the ultimate trial by fire in combat received a guarded go ahead. Within minutes of receiving the distress call two of the LCHs, armed to the teeth with 20mm canon and 35mm rockets were rushing to aid the ambushed Indian infantry team.
Even while carrying near full loads, they could fly at altitudes nearing 6500m which provided them considerable protection from most of portable MANPADS and small arms fire. Thermal sights cued to the weapon controls allowed the pilots to locate and destroy man sized targets from any height. Rushing at speeds in excess of 300 kmph, the two choppers were in the area within minutes and started scouring the area for hostiles. Although the area in which people could disperse was large, the actual area navigable by foot was quite small owing to high mountains, glaciers and mountainous ravines. Therefore the Indian chopper team had little difficulty in locating the hostiles, who were marching towards northern border along the borders of one such mountain river.

Lead chopper, piloted by Squadron Leader Mayur located the 15 men hostile team first at a really vulnerable moment when they were trying to cross a small glacial river a few Km from the ambush site. Even flying at extreme altitudes, Indian helicopters had no difficulty in following the suspects owing to superb avionics on board. They kept watch waiting to provide Chinese a taste of their own medicine. They didn’t have to wait too long as the Chinese men reached an icy ledge on banks of the river. The point was one of very few in region that could be used to cross the river by infantry. Even then, they needed ropes to pass over.
Unfortunately for Chinese, they had chosen wrong time to do so. Their orders had been to make life difficult for Indians in any way possible. Young PLA Captain leading the platoon had followed the orders enthusiastically that had resulted in deaths of 7 Indian soldiers and destruction of an Mi17, spreading panic within Indian camp. Unfortunately neither him nor his superiors had foreseen the consequences.
Currently the Chinese soldiers marched back to their base inside Shaksgam valley on a route that passed through hostile territory interspersed by mountains, glaciers, ice and rivers. The group was standing on a ledge on the bank of one such river, trying to cross it using a temporary rope bridge, when first of the LCH located them. Chinese were blissfully unaware of their impending doom as it hovered thousands of feet above, hidden by clouds and it’s rotor noise masked by winds.
First of the Chinese soldiers to die didn’t even knew what killed them as a salvo of 3 rockets fired from first chopper landed smack in between them as they stood on ledge trying to keep the rope-way stable.
The explosions blew them away to pieces and broke the ropes on which 2 other soldiers were trying to cross over. Both fell in to the icy glacial river and drowned within a minute. Rest of their companions fared only marginally better. A couple of them managed to pull up their guns to eyes but that was the maximum that they could do. Another salvo of rockets, this time fired from 2nd chopper obliterated the confused group they could gather any idea of what was going on . Only two Chinese soldiers survived the carnage, who were cut down by canon fire immediately after.
By picking a place and time favouring them, Indian chopper pilots had executed the ambush flawlessly. Chinese MANPADS crew had no chance of acquiring the helicopters and firing off any missile before being annihilated.
The incident didn’t go unnoticed on either side which were already rushing reinforcements in to the battle. But the two LCH didn’t stay to check as they turned back to their base at maximum speed.