Twenty Indian Army personnel including a colonel were killed in a fierce clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night, the biggest military confrontation in over five decades that has significantly escalated the already volatile border standoff in the region.
The Army initially said on Tuesday that an officer and two soldiers were killed. But in a late evening statement, it revised the figure to 20 saying 17 others who “were critically injured in the line of duty and exposed to sub-zero temperatures at the standoff location succumbed to their injuries.”
Government sources said the Chinese side too suffered “proportionate casualties” but chose not to speculate on the number. An ANI source has speculated that at least 43 Chinese soldiers have been seriously injured or killed in the clash.
INDIA LOSES 20 SOLDIERS
Indian Army confirmed that 20 men have died in the clash at Galwan Valley, however, identities of only 3 personnel have been made public till now.
Initially claiming that three men had died in the clash, later the Army said, “17 Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20.”
The officer killed in the clash was identified as Colonel Santosh Babu, Commanding Officer of the 16 Bihar Regiment, and a native of Telangana.
The other soldiers identified were Havaldar K Palani and Sepoy Kundan Ojha from Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand respectively.
CHINA SUFFERED 43 CASUALTIES: ANI
While no official statement has come from China on the number of casualties, Indian intercepts have estimated roughly 43 casualties on the other side.
Chinese troops suffered 43 casualties during the face-off with the Indian Army at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley region of Eastern Ladakh, news agency ANI has reported.
Indian intel agencies are looking carefully at audio intercepts, visuals, survivor reports to assess casualties on the Chinese side. Preliminary reports indicate heavy fatalities according to the Indian government briefing.
“Indian intercepts reveal that the Chinese side suffered 43 casualties including dead and seriously injured in a faceoff in the Galwan Valley,” ANI said quoting sources.
India doesn’t expect China to own up to because of its track record of hiding deaths.
Military sources said major activities by Chinese air force were observed along the areas in eastern Ladakh, adding that the two armies held Major General-level talks at the site of the clash.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON JUNE 15-16
After India and China had agreed that Chinese troops would further disengage and return to their territory in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 6, talks between major generals of both sides were supposed to take place on June 16.
As PLA troops didn’t move back, a patrol team of the Indian Army led by Colonel Santosh Babu of 16 Bihar Regiment set out to hold a discussion with the Chinese side.
The Chinese refused to move back and deliberately aggravated the situation.
They started to attack the Indian delegation with sticks, stones and clubs wrapped in barbed wire.
Indian military sources said no firearms were used in the clashes and that most of the injuries were sustained following stone-pelting and use of rods by the Chinese side.
The Indian side later retaliated, resulting in heavy casualties to PLA troops.
The clash went on for over three hours.
Releasing a second statement on Tuesday evening, the Indian Army said, “Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed on the night of June 15/16 2020.”
CHINA ATTEMPTED TO CHANGE STATUS QUO: MEA
In a statement, the External Affairs Ministry said the violent face-off was the result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo in the region and that both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided if the agreement arrived earlier was scrupulously followed by the Chinese side.
“Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. We expect the same of the Chinese side,” MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
PM MODI HOLDS CCS MEETING
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the evening where he carried out a comprehensive review of the situation in eastern Ladakh where the two armies have been in a standoff for over five weeks.
It is understood that India decided to continue with a firm approach in dealing with China’s aggressive behaviour along the nearly 3,500 km de facto border.
The meeting came after Rajnath Singh briefed the PM via phone earlier in the day. Rajnath Singh also held a separate meeting with S Jaishankar, Army chief Gen MM Naravane and Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat.
CHINA LAYS CLAIM ON GALWAN, ACCUSES INDIA OF CROSSING BORDER
China’s official media on Tuesday quoted the Chinese military as claiming that it “always” owned sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region and alleged that “provocative attacks’ launched by the Indian troops resulted in “severe clashes and casualties.”
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials were silent on the casualties suffered by the PLA troops, but Hu Xijin, the editor of the ruling Communist Party-run Global Times tabloid, tweeted to say that there are casualties on Chinese side too.
In its reaction, China alleged that the Indian troops twice crossed the de-facto border on June 15 for “illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel” which led to serious physical conflict.
ALERT SOUNDED IN KINNAUR, LAHAUL-SPITI
The Himachal Pradesh Police has issued an alert in Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts, which border China, in view of the violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, an official said on Tuesday.
State police spokesperson Khushal Sharma said an alert and an advisory have been issued to Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts to take all precautionary measures to ensure the security of the local population and also to collect intelligence so as to plan the future course of action.
SPECIAL TRAIN FROM JHARKHAND TO LEH CANCELLED
A special train that was to carry 1,600 migrant workers on their way to Leh from Dumka in Jharkhand for construction work of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was cancelled on Tuesday, following tensions between India and China in the region.
This was the second such train after a special train on June 13 carried a similar number of workers on their way to Leh, following an agreement between the Jharkhand government and the BRO.
OPPOSITION SLAMS GOVT SILENCE
Opposition parties on Tuesday questioned the “silence” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh and asked them to take the nation into confidence on the matter, while the ruling BJP asserted that India’s borders will remain intact under Modi’s leadership.
The Congress said the Prime Minister must take the nation into confidence and the gravity of the situation calls for a “firm and appropriate response”.
Punjab Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh said it is time now for the Centre to take some stringent measures as each sign of weakness makes China’s reaction more “belligerent”.
Reacting to the border clash, BJP president JP Nadda asserted that the borders of India will remain intact under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.
“Indian Army gave a befitting reply, but unfortunately, we have lost our three army men. I pay homage to them for their sacrifice and I can assure you that under the leadership of PM Modi, India’s territorial integrity will not be compromised,” he said.
UN CHIEF EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SITUATION
UN chief Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China and urged both sides to exercise “maximum restraint,” his spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Eri Kaneko, the Associate Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, made the comments at the daily press briefing.
“We are concerned about reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China and urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint. We take positive note of reports that the two countries have engaged to deescalate the situation,” Kaneko said.
BORDER ROW LEADS TO CASUALTIES AFTER 53 YEARS
It is the biggest confrontation between the two militaries after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La when India lost around 80 soldiers while over 300 Chinese army personnel were killed in the confrontation. The casualties take both sides into uncharted territory at a time when the government’s attention is focused on fighting the Covid-19 crisis that appears to be ballooning by the day.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.
Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
LONGEST CONFRONTATION BETWEEN INDIA-CHINA, MULTIPLE HIGH-LEVEL TALKS
A large number of Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Galwan Valley and certain other areas of eastern Ladakh for the last five weeks, including. in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh.
A sizeable number of Chinese Army personnel even transgressed into the Indian side of the de-facto border in several areas including Pangong Tso.
The Indian Army has been fiercely objecting to the transgressions and demanded their immediate withdrawal for the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the area. Both sides held a series of talks in the last few days to resolve the row.
In their first serious efforts to end the row, Lt General Harinder Singh, the general officer commanding of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Commander of the Tibet Military District Maj Gen Liu Lin held a nearly seven-hour meeting on June 6.
The meeting was followed by two rounds of Major General-level talks.
The Indian side has been pitching for the restoration of status quo ante and immediate withdrawal of thousands of Chinese troops from the areas which India considers on its side of the LAC.
Monday’s clashes came two days after the Indian Army Chief Gen. M M Naravane said both sides have begun disengaging from Galwan Valley. He said on Saturday that both sides are “disengaging” in a phased manner.
“We have started from the north, from the area of the Galwan river where a lot of disengagement has taken place. It has been a very fruitful dialogue that we have had,” he had said.
Following the standoff in eastern Ladakh, the two sides have deployed additional troops along the LAC, the de-facto Sino-India border, in North Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh in the last few days, the sources said.
After the standoff began early last month, the Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.
The Chinese Army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the LAC by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment.
The trigger for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrols. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests.
The situation in the area deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in North Sikkim on May 9.