NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) — Four Indian soldiers are reportedly critical after the unprecedented violent face-off with Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night which also claimed the lives of 20 Indian Armymen including officers.
An Indian Army statement issued on Tuesday night said, “17 Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain, they have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20.”
The force further stated that Indian Army is firmly committed to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
Meanwhile, Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at Galwan area where they had earlier clashed.
Sources quoted by news agency ANI have claimed that Indian intercepts revealed that the Chinese side suffered 43 casualties including dead and seriously injured in the face-off at Galwan valley.
Commanding Officer of Chinese Unit is also reportedly among those killed in the face-off.
As per the sources, it is assessed that the Chinese suffered a significant number of casualties in the violent face off on the intervening night of June 15 and 16.
The troops who were part of the face-off told about a significant number of Chinese casualties. Although it is difficult to specify the exact number of casualties both killed and wounded, the number is estimated to be much beyond 40, they said.
The assessment is based on the number of Chinese soldiers evacuated from the face-off location on stretchers and subsequently by ambulance vehicles on the track along the Galwan river, as also the increased Chinese helicopter movement to airlift casualties, sources quoted by ANI have claimed.
However, the Army’s statement did not refer to this.
India has hit out at China for “unilaterally” attempting to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, which led to the killings of troops of both the countries in a violent clash on Monday night.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that on Monday late-evening, a violent face-off erupted between the two sides because of “an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo” in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
“Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side,” Srivastava said.
This serious escalation between the two countries along the border is happening almost after five decades.
The violent face-off comes even as de-escalation talks have been going on ground in eastern Ladakh since the past few weeks through military and diplomatic channels.
On Monday, Brigade Commander and company level talks happened in Eastern Ladakh between India and China. The talks were happening near patrolling point 14 near the mouth of Galwan Valley and patrolling point 17 in the Hot Springs area.
Senior Commanders had a productive meeting on June 6 and agreed on a process for such de-escalation. Subsequently, ground commanders had a series of meetings to implement the consensus reached at the higher level.
“While it was our expectation that this would unfold smoothly, the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley,” the government spokesperson said.
India, he said, is known for its responsible approach to border management and has been very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC. “We expect the same from the Chinese side,” he said.
The government, he said, remains 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, the government is also “strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has expressed concern over the reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China and urged both sides to exercise maximum restraint.
“We take positive note of reports that the two countries have engaged to de-escalate the situation,” said associate spokesperson of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The United States also voiced hope that the two countries will peacefully resolve differences.
The US State Department has said that it is “closely monitoring” the situation between Indian and Chinese forces along LAC.
Referring to the death of 20 Indian soldiers, the state department said, “We offer our condolences to their families”.
Meanwhile, the US media has said that Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has provoked the “Indian nationalist tiger” by engaging in a face-off with Indian Army personnel.
According to an AFP report, the soldiers were not shot but were killed in hand-to-hand combat on Indian territory. The soldiers threw punches and stones at each other and the Chinese troops allegedly used rods and nail-studded clubs during the fight that lasted for hours until midnight on Monday.
China’s defence ministry confirmed that the incident had resulted in casualties but did not give details. China has justified the censorship about the casualties of its troops arguing that it was a goodwill gesture from Beijing.
An unprecedented violent clash took place in Galwan Valley at the Line of Actual Control with Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers attacking a small group of Indian Army men on patrol, resulting in fatalities which included the commanding officer of the Indian Army.
The intensity of the fight increased with reinforcements from the both sides and it continued until late night till the time they got exhausted. Many Indian soldiers went missing during the fight. Early on Tuesday morning, both Indian and Chinese top military officials rushed and called for a meeting to defuse the situation.
These are the first casualties faced by the Indian Army in clash with the People’s Liberation Army since 1975 when an Indian patrol was ambushed by Chinese troops in Arunachal Pradesh.
Earlier on Tuesday, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the prevailing situation in Eastern Ladakh.
Singh met PM Modi after he held a meeting with External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, and the three service chiefs in the South Block here to review the situation.
Singh asked the service chiefs to explain the current situation in Galwan Valley and what course of action could be taken from hereafter diplomatically.
Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane was to visit Kashmir on Tuesday morning but following Monday night’s developments at the LAC, it was cancelled.