India-China border tensions: 20 soldiers killed, confirms Indian Army after first lethal stand-off in 45 yrs; talks underway
Twenty army personnel were killed during a violent confrontation with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night
A total of 20 Indian Army personnel were killed during a violent confrontation with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night. It was a first such incident in the last 45 years that reflected massive escalation in the five-week border row.
Initially, the army said one officer and two soldiers were killed. Later in the night, an army statement said 17 more soldiers who "were were critically injured in the line of duty at the stand off 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 army also stated that the Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at the Galwan area where soldiers from both sides had clashed on the night of 15/16 June 2020, adding that the "Indian Army is firmly committed to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation".
The Chinese side also suffered some loses, however, exact numbers have not been reported so far.
The editor-in-chief of Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times confirmed this, while adding that the Indian side shouldn't be "arrogant and misread Chinese restraint as weakness." Hu Xijin said that the Chinese side was holding back the number of its casualties as the government did not want to "stoke the public mood". He termed it a "goodwill gesture".
Based on what I know, Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash. I want to tell the Indian side, don’t be arrogant and misread China’s restraint as being weak. China doesn’t want to have a clash with India, but we don’t fear it.
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 16, 2020
Chinese side didn’t release number of PLA casualties in clash with Indian soldiers. My understanding is the Chinese side doesn’t want people of the two countries to compare the casualties number so to avoid stoking public mood. This is goodwill from Beijing.
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 16, 2020
A senior military officer, quoted by news agency PTI, said that it is the first incident involving the casualty of an Indian soldier in a violent clash with the Chinese Army after 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh along the de-facto border between the two countries.
Official sources told PTI that there was no firing between the two sides, and the casualties were result of a fist fight and stone-pelting among the two forces.
Multiple sources in government and military establishments told PTI that the clashes continued for several hours.
Reports claimed that the army officer killed in the clash was the commanding officer of a battalion at Galwan. However, there is no official word on it.
Spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava asserted that the violent face-off happened as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo in the region.
The MEA said that both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had agreement arrived at earlier at higher level been "scrupulously followed by 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 (LAC). We expect the same of the Chinese side," MEA spokespeson Anurag Srivastava said.
"We remain firmly convinced of the need for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue. At the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," the MEA added.
Meanwhile, China accused India of "stirring up trouble" and "transgressing" the Chinese border.
"Our border troops had a high-level meeting and reached important consensus on easing the border situation but astonishingly on June 15 the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides and China has lodged strong protest and representation with the Indian side," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
"We once again solemnly ask the Indian side to follow our consensus, strictly regulate its front-line troops and do not cross the line, do not stir up troubles or make unilateral moves that may complicate matters," the spokesperson said.
Zhao also added that both sides agree to resolve this issue through dialogue and consultation and make efforts for easing the situation and upholding the peace and security along the border area.
There has been a large buildup of Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley and certain other areas of eastern Ladakh for the last five weeks.
The incident comes days after Indian Army Chief Gen MM Naravane said both sides have begun disengaging from Galwan Valley.
China's state-run newspaper Global Times claimed in a report that clashes were triggered by Indian troops as they crossed over to the Chinese side and carried out attacks on Chinese soldiers.
The Indian and Chinese armies are engaged in the standoff 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 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 Leh-based 14 Corps, and Commander of the Tibet Military District Major General Liu Lin held a nearly seven-hour meeting on 6 June.
The meeting was followed by two rounds of Major General-level talks. The Indian side has been pitching for 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.
On Saturday, Gen Naravane said 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."
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 in early last month, 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 patrol. 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.
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.
With inputs from PTI
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