Another long distance mission?

Indian military operation

Following is an excerpt from a war scenario story I wrote on Bharat Rakshak Forums back in 2011. Later, I posted it my blog here and as an Amazon e-book. I was reminded of this chapter after coming across news about Indian military operation to rescue hostages and neutralise Somalian pirates aboard MV Ruen. The operation took place roughly 2500 km away from Indian coastline. And as you can see in the image below, Spratly Islands are not that far either, as the crow flies.

I realise that both are completely different situations, but it is fun to think about such stuff.

1920 Hours
Spratly Islands

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 lay 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 its size and
military prowess has been particularly successful in staking its claim on quite a few islands, much to
the chagrin of its 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 midsized 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 an 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 forty four year 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, Philippines, Vietnam or Brunei
had ever approved of Chinese tactics in what each country considered its own backyard. Each one of
them had been trying to undermine the Chinese and claim as much territory as possible for themselves.
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 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 anybody foolish enough to attempt anything like that. But he had orders to
follow and these had been to step up the base security.
Three additional patrols of two soldiers each were added to the 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 entrusted with. HQ had promised at least a platoon worth of
reinforcements two 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 installation 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 its rudder
while on a routine patrol and had to be taken out of action for at least six 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 they 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”.

Behind his back, the two man patrol party continued their vigil. The two men were responsible
for keeping an eye on almost the whole stretch of the sandy beach. Although some new lights had been
installed, a large area was still without light coverage. Their patrol area thus consisted of irregular
patches of light in a mostly dark beach being pounded by powerful waves. Walking slowly the team
reached the last light pole and halted for rest. One of the soldiers took told his companion to wait while
he went slightly ahead behind the rocks for a much needed leak. Standing beside a large rock, he
unzipped his pants and started the work. He was at it for a few seconds when he noticed a slight
movement at the edge of his eyes. If he wasn’t occupied at that time, he would have probably
investigated the incident. But as it happened, he ignored it, and it would have been only a matter of
debate, if the outcome would have been any different even if he had gone on to investigate.
Just a moment after he was finished, there was a small whooshing sound and an arrow pierced his neck
from behind. The startled soldier dropped on wet ground; choking on his own blood. His companion
met the same fate seconds later. Four men in black clothes and masks slithered out of the darkness and
quickly cut the throats of dying soldiers. Each soldier was carried by two men each and their bodies
were dumped carefully out of sight. Once the work was finished, one of the attackers spoke in to his
communications device in heavily accented English, “Otter 1 reporting to Crocodile. Beach is clear. “
Reply in not so accented English came in immediately, “Roger that Otter 1. Good work. Rendezvous
with Otter 2 and 3 at Waypoint Charlie in fourteen minutes.”
The men switched on their night-vision devices and started to sprint towards the heart of the base
nearly a KM away. Although the route was longer, they kept to a path that kept them away from the

Lt. Col Peng was nursing his third drink of the night in his bed. Despite his misgivings, the liquor
was genuine and had given him a good deal of buzz. Coming after the highly stressful day he intended
to enjoy each sip of the expensive whiskey. The stash of bootleg DVDs that was seized from the same
smugglers was proving to be a good source of entertainment. Grasping the glass in his hand he leaned
against the pillows and closed his eyes listening to the soundtrack of one of the Chinese movies. He
was feeling far too drunk to actually watch it.

In spite of all the crap he had to go through, life was not
that bad after all. Sighing contently, he finished his drink and slipped even more in to his bed. His first
clue of the fact that something was wrong came when things suddenly went very dark and at the same
time he started having difficulty breathing. He struggled desperately to get his bearings and fought
against the alcohol induced stupor made even stronger by his fatigue. A sudden hit on kidneys, almost
made him puke, also made him fight off the effects of alcohol on his brain. He realised that his hands
and feet were bound tightly and his face covered in some kind of dark cloth. He tried to scream but a
gag prevented that. Another hit in same area made him bend over himself in agony and his scream was
again muffled by the gag. Rough and firm hands dragged him to his feet and started to drag him
somewhere. He tried to resist and was rewarded by another vicious hit that knocked him out.
When he came to his senses, he found himself in the same predicament, his face was still
covered by a thick mask and his legs and arms tightly bound. His first instinct was to shout. His throat
was parched and he needed water immediately. But almost immediately he remembered his roughing
up from the last night checked himself. The self restraint was largely unnecessary as his mouth was still
gagged. One thing that he sensed soon enough was that he was not on solid ground anymore. By the
slow rhythmic bobbing of the hard metallic floor underneath, he realised that he was a prisoner on a
ship. Trying desperately to get out of his restraints he started to twist and turn which resulted in him
bumping in to another person. He froze immediately, fearing that it was one of his captors. Lying still,
he cringed waiting for the hard hitting blow and was more surprised than relieved when none came.
Instead, a set of fingers frantically poked and groped him. Feeling bewildered he turned and tried to
touch the unknown hand with his. It was soon established that the man was not an enemy and both
immediately set about to loosen each other’s bonds. The task was not easy and it took them almost an
hour to finally break free. At last, with impatient and trembling hands Lt Col Peng tore off the mask
from his face and turned to face his helper.

It turned out to be one of the men from his base, Xia Shi
Gila. The junior ranked soldier immediately tried to stand up and salute his senior but Lt Col waved
him to relax. Sitting cross legged on the hard floor he croaked, “What the hell happened?”
Gila was feeling dizzy from his earlier attempt to jump to attention and he plopped down on the hard
metal floor. “We were attacked last night. Many of our men killed and the rest dumped on this boat. It
all happened in minutes. We don’t know what hit us.”
Peng rubbed his forehead and looked around. He realized that he had been dumped inside the engine
room of Chinese patrol vessel with damaged rudder. As his junior spoke he tried to take stock of his
surroundings. The port holes had been covered and only a trickle of light came through. He could see
somebody moving in the feeble light. Ordering the young soldier to keep quiet, he slowly moved
towards the moving man and found another of his soldiers bound and tied in similar way as they were.
Working feverishly they managed to unshackle the man and then found another tied in similar way. All
the men had similar stories to tell. Numerous masked men in dark clothes had appeared out of nowhere
and had killed or captured all the Chinese personnel on island. Some of them had been placed on to the
patrol vessel which had been towed in roughly southern direction away from the usual shipping lanes.
They had heard loud explosions just minutes after leaving the island.

Cursing loudly, Peng stumbled towards the portholes and tried to look outside. The glass had
been painted black and windows sealed from outside. Ordering his juniors to find and open the door he
tried to assimilate the situation. No matter which way he looked at it, he was screwed royally. His
seniors would certainly take a very dim view of the incident if he ever survived the ordeal. At minimum
they would just fire him. But a very long trip to a re-education camp or death by a firing squad seemed
more plausible.

Few minutes later, he was out of the engine room on to the deck lost in gloomy thoughts oblivious to
what was going on around him. Seventy more Chinese were found bound and gagged on various parts
of the ship, all repeating the same story with only minor variations. There was not a clue of the
attackers though. It was like they were ghosts. He listened to them absently while looking at the night
sky. Day break was still hours away and he could virtually see his life and career disappear along with
the night

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