At least 20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel, were martyred in violent clashes with Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, the Army said on Tuesday night. The Army had earlier informed that a Colonel and two soldiers were killed during the clashes.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that 43 Chinese troops were also killed in the face-off.
“Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed on the night of June 15 and 16. Seventeen Indian troops who were critically injured at 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 said in a statement.
“Indian Army is firmly committed to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation,” it further said.
According to an ANI report, Indian intercepts revealed that the Chinese side had suffered 43 casualties in the violent face-off.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
It said both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement arrived earlier at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side.
Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about last night's clash as well on the overall situation in eastern Ladakh after he held a high-level meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs.
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane cancelled a scheduled visit to Pathankot in view of the incident in eastern Ladakh.
Large number of Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Galwan Valley and certain other areas of eastern Ladakh for last five weeks.
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 Chinese 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. On Saturday, Gen Naravane said both sides are "disengaging" in a phased manner.
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.
With inputs from PTI