In a big blow to the peace process underway at the border with China, an Indian Army Colonel and two soldiers were killed in action during a clash with Chinese troops at one of the standoff points in the Galwan Valley.
The Indian Army in its statement claimed that “casualties have taken place on both sides”. Though unconfirmed reports indicate 4-5 casualties on Chinese side as well, Chinese authorities are yet to release an official statement. However, the editor of the Chinese state-run news website Global Times tweeted saying China had suffered casualties.
"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 tweeted.
This is the first incident of casualty on both sides since 1967, when more than 400 Chinese and nearly 100 Indian troops were killed in a month-long clash in Nathu La in Sikkim. In 1975, four Assam Rifles personnel were killed after crossing the McMahon Line at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh, but it later turned out to be a case of “mistaken identity”.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in a closed-door meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and three service chief in his office in south block, are reviewing the current operational situation in eastern Ladakh.
Observers believe that the incident has pushed the situation out from the military level, and only a political interjection can rein in the issue on the India-China border.
The Chinese foreign ministry, in a statement, alleged that Indian troops crossed the border line twice on Monday. The provocation resulted in a “serious physical confrontation between border forces of India and China”.
The Indian army, in its statement, said that during the de-escalation process, which was underway in the Galwan Valley, a “violent face-off” took place last night with casualties on both sides.
Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation.
Indian army has clarified that there was no firing of bullets during the clash, but sticks and stones were used by both sides to inflict injury.
Sources claimed that on Monday, a team led by Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar Regiment was negotiating with Chinese PLA troops in Galwan Valley. Later on, discussions took a violent turn.
After the June 6 meeting between the Indian delegation headed by Leh-based XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and Major General Lin Liu of Xinjiang military district chief at Chushul-Mondo Border personnel meeting point, both sides have been holding several rounds of local military commander-level talk to de-escalate the situation.
Indian and Chinese troops have been on an eyeball to eyeball situation for nearly two months in eastern Ladakh. Chinese PLA troops have made advancements into certain Indian-occupied territories in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso Lake region in Ladakh, and significantly built up its military presence with massive deployment of infantry soldiers, artillery guns and logistic support along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh sector.
On May 5, the Commanding Officer of 11 Mahar deployed on LAC was beaten up by Chinese troops during a skirmish.
Since June 6, both sides have agreed to de-induct of forces from Finger 4, patrol point 14 to patrol point 17, along with gradual de-escalation in depth areas. Patrolling point 14 is on Galwan Valley; Patrolling point 15 is also called Hot Spring.
The Army Chief General M.M. Naravane on Saturday said the process of disengagement is underway.