20 Indian soldiers were killed in a "violent face-off" with Chinese troops in Ladakh, sources say
New Delhi: Twenty Indian soldiers including a Colonel were killed in a "violent face-off" on Monday night with Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in Ladakh, in the most serious escalation at the border in five decades, at a time soldiers of both sides were in the process of disengagement. More than 43 Chinese soldiers have been killed or seriously injured, reported news agency ANI quoting sources. India said the clashes happened "as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there", rebutting China's claims that Indian soldiers cross the border. This is the first fatal clash since 1975 between India and China, who fought a border war in 1962. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held meetings with Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met with military chiefs twice as India discussed a response to the huge development.Here are the top developments in this big story:
India said the clash arose from "an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo" on the border. "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," said foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Shrivastava.
Colonel B Santosh Babu of the Bihar regiment, Havildar Palani and Sepoy Ojha are three of the names confirmed by the army. "During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties on both sides. The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers. Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation," the army statement said.
The soldiers were not shot but were killed in a physical fight on Indian Territory that involved stones and batons, said the army. "There was no firing. No firearms were used. It was violent hand-to-hand scuffles," an unnamed officer was quoted by news agency Agence France Presse as saying.
The clash took place just as Chinese troops were getting ready to move away from a location per an agreement. The Colonel was reportedly assaulted with stones and Indian soldiers retaliated, which led to close unarmed combat for several hours. The soldiers disengaged after midnight.
The only admission of casualties on the Chinese side so far came from the editor of their government mouthpiece Global Times. "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," tweeted Hu Xijin, Editor-in-Chief of Global Times.
Beijing, in an aggressive statement, accused India of crossing the border, "attacking Chinese personnel", reported AFP. China's Foreign Ministry was quoted by Reuters as saying India should not take unilateral actions or stir up trouble. "What's shocking is that on June 15, the Indian side severely violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line and provoked and attacked the Chinese forces, causing a violent physical confrontation between the two border forces," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing. "China is raising strong opposition and stern representations to the Indian side on this," he said.
For more than six weeks now soldiers from both sides have been engaged in a stand-off at least two locations along the Line of Actual Control -- the 3,488 km de-facto boundary between India and China, and have rushed additional troops to the border. They have been facing each other at the Galwan River, which was one of the early triggers of the 1962 India-China war, and at the Pangong Tso -- a glacial lake at 14,000 feet in the Tibetan plateau.
On May 9, several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in a clash involving fists and stone-throwing at Naku La in India's Sikkim state, which borders Bhutan, Nepal and China.
After weeks of face-off including an incident in which patrolling soldiers clashed on the banks of Pangong Lake, resulting in injuries, friction eased following talks. Indian and Chinese military commanders had been in talks in Galwan Valley area and Hot Springs. The Chinese Army had earlier pulled back its troops from the Galwan valley, PP-15 and Hot Springs in Eastern Ladakh area. The Indian side also brought back some of its troops and vehicles from these areas.
AFP quoted Indian sources and news reports as suggesting that Chinese troops remained in parts of the Galwan Valley and of the northern shore of the Pangong Tso lake.
China has been upset about the Indian construction of roads and air strips in the area, say diplomats. The government has pushed for improving connectivity and by 2022, 66 key roads along the Chinese border will have been built. One of these roads is near the Galwan valley that connects to Daulat Beg Oldi air base, which was inaugurated last October. Chinese military spokesperson colonel Zhang Shuili on Tuesday claimed "China always owns sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region".