New Delhi: Four Indian soldiers are in critical condition after the violent face-off with Chinese troops at eastern Ladakh on Monday evening, news agency ANI reported quoting sources. The Army confirmed yesterday that 20 soldiers were killed in the fight at Galwan Valley in Ladakh. 43 Chinese soldiers have been killed or seriously injured, ANI reported quoting sources who based the information on intercepts.
An army statement on Tuesday morning confirmed the death of a Colonel and two jawans and spoke of “casualties on both sides”. In another statement last evening, the army added that 17 more critically injured were “exposed to sub-zero temperatures… (and) succumbed to their injuries”.
The army statement opened by saying Indian and Chinese troops “have disengaged” at the Galwan area where they earlier clashed on the night of June 15/16.
Agence France Presse quoted an Indian army source as saying the incident involved no shooting but “violent hand-to-hand scuffles”. The soldiers threw punches and stones at each other and the Chinese troops allegedly used rods and nail-studded clubs during the fight that lasted for hours until midnight on Monday, according to reports.
China’s defence ministry confirmed the incident had resulted in casualties but did not give details.
India blamed the clashes on “an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there”, rebutting China’s claims that Indian soldiers crossed 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.
Since early May, hundreds of soldiers have been ranged against each other at three locations.
The two sides had been discussing ways to de-escalate but Monday’s clashes erupted when Chinese troops turned on a group of Indian soldiers that included an officer.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said there had been a serious violation of a consensus reached by the two countries. Indian soldiers “twice crossed the border line and provoked and attacked the Chinese forces, causing a violent physical confrontation between the two border forces,” Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.
Military experts say one reason for the face-off is that India has been building roads and airfields to improve connectivity and narrow the gap with China’s infrastructure. At Galwan, India completed a road leading to an airfield last October. To China’s objections, India said it was operating on its side of the Line of Actual Control.
India and China fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962 and there have been skirmishes after that, but no loss of life since 1975.