S Jaishankar said it is a long standing practice not to use firearms during face-offs (File)
Rahul Gandhi's comment that Indian soldiers were sent "unarmed to martyrdom" in the brutal clash with China at Galwan valley in Ladakh provoked a sharp rebuttal from Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, who said: "Let's get the facts straight".
Troops on the border always carry arms, said the Foreign Minister, but it is a long standing practice not to use firearms during face-offs.
"Let us get the facts straight. All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving post. Those at Galwan on 15 June did so. Long-standing practice (as per 1996 & 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during faceoffs," said Mr Jaishankar, replying to Rahul Gandhi's tweet.
The Congress leader had tweeted: "How dare China kill our UNARMED soldiers? Why were our soldiers sent UNARMED to martyrdom?"
20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel, were killed in the line of duty on Monday night in the worst face-off with Chinese soldiers in nearly 50 years. Though Beijing has given no official figure, army sources say around 45 Chinese soldiers were killed or injured.
Following the deadly clash, the army is reviewing the decades-old rules of engagement with China. The standing instructions for soldiers confronting Chinese troops in a violent face-off include not opening fire. However, sources say the army is allegedly discussing this after Monday night's deadly clash at the Galwan river, which began when Indian troops moved to remove a tent pitched by Chinese soldiers on India's side of the border.
The soldiers were attacked with iron rods, rocks wrapped in barbed wire and nail-studded clubs at nearly 15,000 feet up in the Himalayas near the freezing Galwan River. Some soldiers fell off a steep ridge into the icy river.
The attack came after weeks of China building up its presence along the border which resulted in a stand-off in at least four different places in Ladakh and one in Sikkim.
Currently, a Major General of the Indian Army is holding talks with Chinese military officers at the Galwan valley, a day after inconclusive talks over the face-off.