Suddenly our role was changed from defence of Tawang, the Divisional Vital Ground, to evict the Chinese from DHOLA post. Moves on the chessboard started. Planting of small flags on maps in the Operations Rooms of various HQ had commenced. Unfortunately most of the maps were sketchy and at best inaccurate. Incredibly the whole of the operation of river Namka Chu involving 7 Bde was planned on a sketch prepared by an Assam Rifles jawan. This was the best available at all levels from Brigade to Army HQ. It was inaccurate, not to scale and was supplied to all and sundry in the form of a blueprint. Even I was de- briefed on the same on my return from the debacle by the Director Military Intelligence and the Director Signals.
No Border Maps
A word about the state of maps of the area of Op Leghorn and why the Assam Rifle sketch became so important and indispensable. I quote from a letter, dated 24 Sep 2001, from my elder brother Shri Ratna Singh.
Quote.- It was about October, at this time, I was a supervisory officer in Survey of India at Dehradun and we were working round the clock in connection with the up dating of our Northern Border maps using Aerial Photography and photogrammetric techniques. It is interesting to, note that till then our border maps were sketchy and could not be relied upon. -Unquote.
9 Punjab was ordered to move from Tawang and contact Dhola post. CO Lt Col Mishra in the process deployed his battalion along the Namka Chu River line. To my ill luck, he never took the Signals detachment with him and left the 62 Set and the operators at his base at Lumpu with his 2IC Major Dilbagh Singh. He had his own set working back to the base at Lumpu. He must have had his own reasons for this unconventional action. However, my problems and brickbats from higher HQ had already started, who were not interested in Mishra's reasons, they were more worried as to why information was not coming through signal channels.
Delay in passage of messages
The extremely long distances over which communications were required, all the way from Army HQ at Delhi to Dhola, on the Tri- junction of India China and Bhutan had its own problems. Engineered on different and mostly mismatched equipment, vagaries of atmospherics and the physics of ionosphere, the system was far from robust with little redundancy. Holdings and use of multiple cryptographic systems, Linex, Book and Machine at various levels from Battalions, Brigade, Division to Army HQ added their own share to the bottlenecks and delays at various levels in the passage of the messages.
Split HQs, Commanders and Staff mostly away from their HQs, Signals uprooted time and again and mostly on move, it was a wonder that Communications did exist, if at all. Delays had to happen in the passage of messages. No doubt I had to bear the brunt, even though both my CO Lt Col Tewari and the Commander Brig Dalvi shielded me. However, Priority messages pending in the signal centre or on the wireless links, the only means of clearing traffic, did create their own share of stress in me, as would have been the case with any other signal officer.
Delay of Top Secret Messages
Senior Signals Officers had also to share the burden of pressures from top. Brig Dalvi has recorded in his book about the delay in a Top Secret message from Gen Kaul originated from 1/9 GR location, from where there was no provision or facility to clear such messages. The Signal elements of the Brigade including me were all this time on move, the Brigade had neither a functioning HQ nor any signal communication system.
Brigadier Dalvi writes
quote- A sturdy Sikh from the Punjabis would be detailed to 'run' with the vital message to Lumpu. From there, the second- in–command of the Punjabis would phone it through to Ziminthaung (A Top Secret message on an open line, to which a Chinese agent possibly could have te-ed in his telephone for transmission to Peking even before it reached Delhi.) where it would be enciphered and transmitted to Tezpur, Delhi and Lucknow. The first message reached Delhi after three days. Mr Menon was extremely annoyed and demanding the dismissal of the Chief Signal Officer of Eastern Command for inefficiency.-unquote
Brig Lakshman Singh (Retd)
Tawang was returned to the control of India. The valiant last stand of Mahavir Chakra awardee Jaswant Singh Rawat took place in Tawang. After the voluntary withdrawal of Chinese troops, Tawang was once again under Indian administration. In recent years, China has occasionally voiced its claims on Arunachal Pradesh, especially Tawang, and Chinese troop incursions continue to occur frequently. According to news reports, the state government was willing to swap territories with China in order to make border adjustments, but it firmly refused to lose out any major towns or monasteries to China. Today, Tawang serves as a center for tourist attractions, thanks to the preserved beauty of the Tawang monastery.