So I came across THIS 2015 news report, some days ago. A piece that I found ‘very’ interesting. The headline is catchy enough – ‘UN peacekeepers refused to help as aid workers were raped in South Sudan’. But it is the second part of the headline that caught my eye – Chinese troops abandoned their posts rather than engage in fighting and protect civilians.
Interesting, I thought. Did a little more digging around on the ‘www’ and came across another nugget of ‘very’ interesting information. Will come to that in the latter part of this blog post. But first let me share some thoughts on the piece above.
Firstly let us talk about the facts listed out in the news report above:-
- The Chinese peacekeepers were entrusted with the responsibility of a one civilian protection site in Juba.
- In the month of July 2015, fierce attacks were mounted by one of the rebel groups in Sudan, leading to ‘tens of thousands’ of civilians seeking safety from successive bouts of fighting, at that site.
- However, the Chinese peacekeepers stayed on in their bases rather than protect civilians. Heck, even the Ethiopian troops had done far better, helping evacuate wounded civilians and returning fire when needed.
- On the last day of the fighting, about 80 to 100 government soldiers attacked a compound in Juba where they raped and gang-raped at least five international aid workers and physically or sexually assaulted at least a dozen others.
- All this happened when there was a UN Base manned by Chinese peacekeepers only a few hundred metres from the compound. However despite dozens of appeals for help from the besieged aid workers and personal visits from at least one who escaped from the compound, the Chinese peacekeepers simply REFUSED to leave the safety of their base.
- During four days of fighting between the rival forces, artillery rounds and gunfire hit two UN bases, killing two Chinese peacekeepers. And what did the vaunted PLA troopers do? They not only failed to return fire, but in fact, RAN AWAY FROM THEIR POST. To add insult to injury, in their haste to save their skins, they even left behind their weapons and ammo – something a professional soldier would not even dream of doing. EVER.
So here is what I make of the entire issue – The PLA soldier didn’t move out of the safety of his compound, favouring his personal safety over his responsibility to his fellow human beings. To some extent (and I say this ‘coz I am not entirely aware of the rules of engagement they were bound by), this might be explained by the rules of engagement that MIGHT have prevented them from interfering in the factional fighting in the area. MIGHT have, ‘coz I am not sure it actually prevented them. More on that in the latter part of this piece. However, even the refusal to fire back in self-defence, more so when two of their comrades had been fatally wounded, reeks of cowardice. And then the biggest ignominy a professional soldier can heap upon himself – they abandoned their posts and ran away. Not only that, they left behind their weapons and ammo.
An entire post cowering behind the apparent safety of their compound walls instead of discharging their duty when humanity is being raped and murdered all around. When the compound too becomes unsafe, they just ran away! And this is the kind of manpower with which the PRC threatens the battle hardened Indian Army today!
Now coming to another interesting nugget I discovered when searching for more info on this incident. I came across THIS report. It was the Indian Army that actually saved them. The report itself doesn’t mention the abandonment of posts by the PLA peacekeepers. Very ‘convenient’ omission, I say.
However, as per the report, INDBATT II, comprised by men from the 7th Battalion, of the Kumaon Regiment, who were held in reserve, were asked to take charge and restore the situation, which they did with extreme professionalism and ruthlessness. Here’s a typically modest way the news report chose to describe their actions – ‘It was learnt that troops also secured the perimeter which was smashed by the IDPs and ensured the armed militiamen were weeded out.’ Yes, they ‘secured’ the perimeter and ensured the armed militiamen were ‘weeded out’. Such ‘modesty’ is typical of the way in which the Indian media’s undersells the achievements of its own countrymen. Or perhaps, something that they are so used to from the Indian Army, that they take it as a matter of course– Send in Indian troops, job will be done.
Btw, it was the same militiamen who had ‘scared the hell’ out of the famed PLA troops and routed them that the Kumaonis calmly ‘weeded out’. Rest of the report makes for an interesting read too.
So here it is. An Army that fought its last war in 1979, an army that has ‘won’ against an outsider only once in 5000 years of its nation’s history, in 1962, was exposed for what it was – shiny toys and scared brats afraid to wield them when time comes. (Regarding the ‘war experience’ of the PLA, that is for another time which will come soon).
Sabre rattling in front of apparently weaker neighbours is fine, but god save you if the ‘weaker’ neighbour draws out his own sword!
(Oh, btw, the title of the photograph of PLA Peacekeepers posted on top of this blog, in The Guardian report is – ‘Peacekeeping troops in South Sudan ‘underperformed’ during violence in July.’)
This piece has been reproduced with permission from Harpreet’s Blog. It has been lightly edited to conform to the template of Delhi Defence Review.
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