Defence minister Rajnath Singh, in first comments by the Central government, on Wednesday mourned the loss of 20 soldiers who died in the line of duty in a violent face off with China in the Galwan Valley. News agency ANI quoting sources said four Indian soldiers are in critical condition after the face-off.
“The loss of soldiers in Galwan is deeply disturbing and painful. Our soldiers displayed exemplary courage and valour in the line of duty and sacrificed their lives in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.
“The Nation will never forget their bravery and sacrifice. My heart goes out to the families of the fallen soldiers. The nation stand shoulder to shoulder with them in this difficult hour. We are proud of the bravery and courage of India’s bravehearts,” the minister tweeted.
The loss of soldiers in Galwan is deeply disturbing and painful. Our soldiers displayed exemplary courage and valour in the line of duty and sacrificed their lives in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) June 17, 2020
There was no word on the present situation at the border and what the casualties were on the Chinese side.
Tensions between the two sides first flared up in early May following clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in the Sikkim and Ladakh sectors of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The deployment of reinforcements by both sides led up to the face-off in Galwan Valley on Monday night that left 20 Indian soldiers, including a colonel, dead. On the Chinese side, news agency ANI reported, 43 soldiers have been killed or seriously injured, though the Indian army’s statement did not refer to this.
Defence minister’s statement also comes shortly after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi sought answers from the government over the incident. Gandhi also demanded to know “why is the PM silent?” and raised questions on the Chinese aggression.
“Why is the PM silent? Why is he hiding? Enough is enough. We need to know what has happened. How dare China kill our soldiers? How dare they take our land?” tweeted Gandhi.
Why is the PM silent?
Why is he hiding?
Enough is enough. We need to know what has happened.
How dare China kill our soldiers?
How dare they take our land?
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 17, 2020
The army statement issued on Tuesday evening said the Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed “ have disengaged”.
The External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Monday evening’s violent face-off took place after the Chinese side “departed from the consensus to respect the LAC” and attempted to “unilaterally change the status quo”.
New Delhi did not elaborate how the Chinese troops had tried to alter the status quo. Officials later said it could be a reference to an observation post set up by the Chinese troops on the Indian side of the LAC that was removed by Indian soldiers.
The deadly clash came on a day army delegations from India and China held talks at two locations along the LAC – brigadier-ranked officers met in the Galwan Valley and Colonel-ranked officers in Hot Springs – as part of continuing efforts to resolve the standoff.
These are the first Indian casualties in a border skirmish with PLA since October 1975 when Chinese troops ambushed an Indian patrol in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tulung La sector and shot four soldiers dead. HT has learnt rival soldiers exchanged blows, threw stones at each other and Chinese troops even attacked Indian soldiers with rods and nail-studded clubs during the brawl that went on for over six hours.