20 Indian soldiers killed in Galwan Valley standoff, toll may rise

New Delhi (IANS): Twenty Indian Army men, including officers, were killed in an unprecedented violent clash with Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops at Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh on Monday night, the Indian Army said on Tuesday.

Sources said that the death toll is likely to go up as many soldiers have been seriously injured.

The Indian Army in a statement on Tuesday night said, “17 Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff 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.”

It added that Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged in the Galwan area where they had earlier “clashed on the night of June 15 and June 16, 2020.”

The 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 hurriedly called for a meeting to defuse the situation.

These are the first casualties faced by the Indian Army in a clash with the People’s Liberation Army since 1975 when an Indian patrol was ambushed by Chinese troops in Arunachal Pradesh.

Earlier in the day, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the prevailing situation in Eastern Ladakh.

Singh met 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.

On Monday, Brigade Commander and company level talks took place in Eastern Ladakh between India and China near patrolling point 14 near the mouth of Galwan Valley and patrolling point 17 in the Hot Springs area.

The Global Times, published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), admitted that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops had also been killed.

Justifying China’s silence over the number of its casualties, Hu Xijn, editor of the Global Times, tweeted, “Chinese side didn’t release number of PLA casualties in clash with Indian soldiers. My understanding is the Chinese side doesn’t want people of the two countries to compare the casualties number so to avoid stoking public mood. This is goodwill from Beijing.”

Earlier, Hu had tweeted, “Based on what I know, Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash.”

However, he went on to warn India, saying, “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.”