NEW DELHI: At least twenty Indian Army personnel were killed Monday night in violent clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan valley of Ladakh where disengagement of troops on either side was underway.
The Indian Army said there were casualties on both sides, while China has not commented on the losses in the worst flare-up on the Line of Actual Control in more than five decades.
The Indian Army’s initially said an officer and two soldiers were killed, but late at night, a second statement confirmed the loss of 20 lives on the Indian side.
The first confirmation of the incident came in the afternoon when the Indian Army said: “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,” it said, adding that “senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation.”
China’s state-run daily, quoting the Foreign Ministry, said there had been “serious physical clashes”. It quoted the Chinese military spokesperson mentioning “severe clashes and casualties”.
The night incident took place in the area between the LAC and the junction of Galwan and Shyok rivers. Both sides have held talks between the two sides on disengagement in the Galwan valley.
Indian officers said that said the two sides had agreed to create a ‘buffer zone’ along the LAC. The Indian side is supposed to stay to the west of the river junction and the Chinese to the east of the LAC to prevent face-offs.
According to Indian media, an argument started over the position of Chinese soldiers who had started erecting a new post on the southern bank of Galwan river.
The situation quickly escalated when a Commanding Officer and his troops insisted that the Chinese remove the post leading to physical violence. The Chinese side reportedly used sticks, clubs, bats, bamboos with nails during the fight.
In the fight, some soldiers either fell or were pushed into the river, Indian officers said. Some bodies were recovered from the river while a few soldiers died of hypothermia.
Some Indian soldiers were initially held captive by the Chinese but were released. Following the incident, tensions ran high at all other locations on the LAC and troops from both sides were moved forward and deployed along the border.