Spartly Islands is name of a group of islands spread between seas of China, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and oil rich kingdom of Brunei. Most of the islands are small inhabited coral reefs interspersed with a few comparatively larger islands covered by dense tropical forests. Human population is sparse and most of the islands have little significance except as means of asserting the maritime boundaries of respective countries. And herein lies the catch. This whole area is believed to be one of the richest oil and natural gas fields. As such even though the islands which are next to useless by themselves are priceless pieces of real estate hotly contested by all the surrounding countries. There have been small scale conflicts and tensions between the participants since a long time. China owing to it’s size and military prowess has been particularly successful in staking it’s claim on quite a few islands, much to the chagrin of it’s neighbours. In most of the cases, Chinese military personnel just sneaked in to the inhabited islands and raised the red flag daring any of other countries to take it down. Although other countries didn’t like it a bit, they could do nothing except seething in impotent rage.
FalunGa was name of a mid sized island claimed by Chinese in similar fashion. Although it’s much closer to Vietnamese coast, Chinese had been able to stake their claim by bullying the weaker Vietnamese. North-western part of island, facing Vietnam was dominated by a extinct volcano peak, leaving an area of less than 4 square km of inhabitable land for the occupiers.
Over the years, Chinese had made the island a hub for their maritime patrol vessels in addition to an intelligence gathering outpost. A small number of Chinese patrol vessels and an occasional small frigate used the base to refuel and restock regularly. From being an inhabited island in 1970s, the place had grown to be an important military base populated by at least 300 Chinese technicians and military personnel. These were in direct command of a PLA officer of at least Lt. Col rank. During the time that hostilities started between India and China, a 44 years old Lt. Col Peng was officer in charge of base and he was not a happy man at the moment. Intelligence had suggested that something was definitely cooking. Neither of the other stake holders in Spartly Islands, Philipinese, Vietnam or Brunei had ever approved of Chinese tactics in what each country considered it’s own backyard. Each one of them had been trying to undermine Chinese and claim as much territory as possible to itself. Defiant, according to some accounts even belligerent attitude shown by Indians had given wings to many hopes to detractors of China. Something diplomatic or even military by any of the these countries was definitely on. Only what and when they didn’t know. Lt Col Peng knew that it couldn’t be a military offensive. Chinese dragon was more than capable of roasting and swallowing any body foolish enough to attempt anything like that. But he had orders to follow and these had been to step up the base security.
3 additional patrols of 2 soldiers each were added to existing 24×7 security detail and some more flood lights near the docks were installed. Although the base was still less than ideally defended, that was the best that could be done under the circumstances. Engineers and mechanics formed bulk of the Chinese population on base and those mugs could be barely tolerated with ships, guns were just not something that they could be trusted with. HQ had promised at least a platoon worth of reinforcements 2 days ago, but he hadn’t heard anything about it since then.
Now as the night advanced, he found himself sitting in his air conditioned office, smoking a cigar and double checking the status report he had to file next morning. The day had been very long with him personally supervising laying down of fences and trip wires, digging of trenches and shouting at the guard patrols to stay awake. To add to his woes, a medium sized patrol vessel had damaged it’s rudder while on a routine patrol and had to be taken out of action for at least 6 days. Feeling more tired than he had ever felt his whole life, he closed the file, leaned on back of his chair and inhaled deeply on his cigar. Apparently, the damned thing itself was another of infamous Chinese copies and gave him a coughing fit. Cursing incoherently in between his coughing fits he stumbled out of his chair and threw the cigar on floor in disgust.
Gathering up his belongings and files he got out of his cabin and ordered his orderly to lock it up behind him while he himself started his walk towards his residence which was nothing more than a per-fabricated shelter. But at least it had a mattress and a bed. But before that he decided that he needed to check on his men. The extended patrols were taking a toll on his men and he had no idea when fresh men from mainland were going to arrive in order to ease the burden. Carrying a small satchel which contained some of his belongings and documents, he started a brisk walk towards the nearly deserted beach where he could relax for a bit as well as check on the new guard posts he had ordered.
From the distance, he could see the newly installed flood lights on each corner of the beach gleaming brightly. Very soon, he saw silhouettes of two armed soldiers as they ambled past the harsh light spot created by the flood lights. Nodding in a satisfied fashion, he stood at a distance watching the two soldier patrol as it walked through the light into darkness and back again. Taking one last look at the area, he willed his tired legs to move back to his personal cabin to a bottle of American whiskey that his men had captured from smugglers yesterday. “Hope that doesn’t turn out to be another fake like those damned “Cuban cigars”.