A little over 55 years ago, in October 1962, the undeclared Indo-Chinese war began when a transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force was hit 19 times by Chinese machine gun fire as it came back to its Ladakh airbase. The Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, which runs from the Kun Lun mountain range to the main Himalayas in the south, gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of crucial trade routes crossing the high mountains.
It is in an area subject to the occasional border dispute between India and China. As the Cuban missile crisis unfolded half a world away, the Chinese encroached upon Indian territory in the Chushul Valley, so in response, the Indian Air Force facilitated the reinforcement of the area’s firepower with the airlifting of AMX-13 tanks of the 20 Lancers to Chushul, situated in southeastern Ladakh, 15,000 feet above sea level. The tanks were to be used for securing flat approaches from Tibet towards India’s defences at Chushul and delaying the Chinese advance.