Indian forces at the foothills of a mountain range near Leh

They want the nation’s intelligence system urgently revamped. Former Navy Chief Admiral L Ramdas has been severely critical of the govt on earlier occasions as well

In a letter to the top leadership of the country, 144 veterans requested a fact-finding body to be immediately instituted regarding the “intrusions, incursions and encroachments” by China along the border up to Arunachal Pradesh in the East and the report be tabled in the Lok Sabha within a time-bound framework.

On the violent clash at Galwan, the veterans said it could only have happened because of “failure at one or more levels” in the political, civil and military establishments, especially in continuous intelligence acquisition and dissemination, and urged the nation’s intelligence system be urgently revamped.

The “Statement on China” addressed to the President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Chief of Defence Staff and the three Service Chiefs was signed by 144 veterans from the three Services including former Navy Chief Admiral L Ramdas and was sent by email to the addressees on July 2. “We do not represent any group or political party”, the veterans stated.

The loss of 20 Jawans, including Col. Santosh Babu, on June 15 in the Galwan valley is deeply disturbing and raises many questions, they said, also referring to the earlier incident at Pangong Tso on May 5 where a Colonel, a Major and Jawans were wounded by similar action by the Chinese. “While we accept that failures can happen in any system, in the current instance either our intelligence system was found wanting, or the intelligence which it obtained did not reach the field units in time. We therefore urge that our nation’s intelligence system be urgently revamped,” the veterans said.

A formal statement issued by the Army or the government soon after the Galwan clash would have laid rumours and guesses at rest, the veterans said, stating it would have prevented China from “taking advantage of contradictions between ambiguous or inaccurate verbal statements needing later clarifications.” They also called for declassifying of the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report on the 1962 war with China. “There can be no sensible reason for this report remaining secret even after 57 years,” they noted.

Neighbourhood Management

India urgently needs a stated national policy and strategy on neighbourhood management, concerning all India’s immediate and more distant neighbours,especially China and Pakistan. The veterans also raised the issue of excessive deployment of the Army in its secondary role of internal security and counter-insurgency duties, at the cost of availability of troops for the primary role of defence of territorial sovereignty while a large strength of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are deployed in border areas in an essentially military role.

Stating that political solutions have not been sought in the past, but now need to be arrived at, because continuous deployment of the military can never be a long-term solution, the veterans added, “We therefore urge non-military political solutions for both external and internal security, in the larger national interest.”