New Delhi: Amid the de-escalation talks, border tension in Ladakh flared up on Monday night after a Indian army officer and 19 soldiers were killed in a "violent face-off" with Chinese soldiers at Galwan Valley, according to media reports.
Said to be the first such incident on the Line of Actual Control or LAC after 1975 when four Indian soldiers had lost their lives in an ambush at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh.
Sources in the Army quoted by NDTV said the soldiers in Galwan Valley were not shot but were killed in “hand to hand combat”.
An official statement said: "During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties. The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers. Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation."
The face-off comes close on the heels denial by the Indian authorities and media that China had stepped on to Indian soil.
Taking a dig at the Narendra Modi government’s claims, former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted:
“If the Chinese shoot dead an Indian army colonel & two jawans during a “de-escalation process” imagine how escalated the situation must be in the first place. This is what happens when the media propagates the government line that asking questions is anti-national.”
If the Chinese shoot dead an Indian army colonel & two jawans during a “de-escalation process” imagine how escalated the situation must be in the first place. This is what happens when the media propagates the government line that asking questions is anti-national.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) June 16, 2020
According to Agence France Presse, China accused India of crossing the border, 'attacking Chinese personnel'.
A Reuters report said that China's Foreign Ministry said it called on India to not take unilateral actions or stir up trouble.
ANI quoted China's Global Times saying that "Indian troops seriously violated consensus of the two sides by illegally crossing the border twice and carrying out provocative attacks on Chinese soldiers." It added that the alleged incident "resulted in serious physical clashes."
According to Global Times, China’s Foreign Minister China has lodged solemn representations with the Indian side and urged it to strictly restrain its frontline troops from crossing the border or taking any unilateral action that may complicate the border situation, the ANI report said.
Meanwhile, noted columnist on defence affairs, who has been keeping a close watch on the events as they unfolded, accused the government of “lying” and not being transparent on the issue.
“For Heavens sake...and for India's... abandon the web of lies and deception about "de-escalation". Note clash site: "Galwan Valley". That is territory that has been in India's possession since 1962. Time for the govt -- and bhakts and media toadies -- to stop lying to India,” Shukla tweeted.
For Heavens sake...and for India's... abandon the web of lies and deception about "de-escalation".
Note clash site: "Galwan Valley". That is territory that has been in India's possession since 1962.
Time for the govt -- and bhakts and media toadies -- to stop lying to India.
— Ajai Shukla (@ajaishukla) June 16, 2020
A stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers has been going on for weeks at Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh. A significant number of Chinese army personnel reportedly even transgressed into the Indian side of the LAC.
After the incident, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting with Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and the chiefs of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, along with S Jaishankar, the Minister of External Affairs to discuss the Ladakh situation.
According to the Indian Army, the face-off took place on Monday night, leading to "casualties on both sides."
Earlier, Army sources had said there has been disengagement between Indian and Chinese troops at more locations where they had been in standoff positions for last many weeks now.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who had initially said that the Chinese were present in “large numbers”, had later back-tracked and told the media that the details would be “at an appropriate time.”