The Chinese and Indian troops have clashed at least once in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, where 20 Indian soldiers were killed on June 15 last year after a violent faceoff, Business Standard reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified officials in the Ministry of Defence. It is not clear exactly when the incident took place or if there were any casualties.
In February, India and China had announced an agreement for disengagement on the North and South Bank of Pangong Tso to cease their forward deployments in a “phased, coordinated and verified manner” following a series of military and diplomatic talks. Both the countries are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points.
But, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has now crossed the Line of Actual Control at several places, according to Business Standard.
Hours after the story was published, the Indian Army said there have been no clashes in Galwan Valley or any other area.
“The article is riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation,” the Army said. “It is reiterated that the news report mentioning that agreements with China have collapsed, is false and baseless. Ever since the disengagement agreement in February this year, there has been no attempt by either side to occupy the areas from where the dis-engagement had been undertaken.”
The Army accused the reporter of having a “malafide intention” and said the story was published with uncorroborated facts.
According to Business Standard, Chinese drones began entering Indian airspace in large numbers in the first week of April.
“In May-June, Indian patrols in Demchok and Chumar, in southern Ladakh, reported an increased presence of PLA [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] men in civilian clothes,” the story said. “In mid-May, without Indian provocation, the PLA began re-occupying many of the positions that had been vacated, boosting tensions and triggering counter deployments by the Indian Army.”
Officials in the military also told the Business Standard that the People’s Liberation Army has probably deployed two regiments of S-400 air defence missiles. These Russian missile systems, the newspaper said, can shoot down Indian aircraft anywhere in Ladakh with its advanced capability.
Last month, India Today had also reported that the Chinese Army has increased its presence in eastern Ladakh, raising concerns. “They have disengaged, but not reduced troop strength – a clear sign that they intend to be here for the long haul,” a military source told the news channel.
Chinese troops are still deployed in large numbers in Gogra Post and Hot Springs sector, two of the friction points between the countries. An official told The Indian Express in April that China had first agreed to pull its troops back from Hot Springs and Gogra Post, but later refused to do so. China had also reportedly told India that it should be happy with “what has been achieved”.
The massive Chinese buildup across the LAC from Gogra, starting from Patrolling Point 17 and 23, along with with artillery, air defence weaponry and heavy vehicles can move deeper into Indian territory in a very short span of time, Business Standard reported.
On the South Bank of the Pangong Lake too, Chinese Army has reportedly reoccupied the places on the Kailash Range, like Black Top and Helmet, which they had previously vacated.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi posted a screenshot of the Business Standard report on Twitter with the caption: “Government of India’s use of foreign and defence policy as a domestic political tool has weakened our country. India has never been this vulnerable.”
In the first deadly clash in the border area in nearly five decades, 20 Indian soldiers were killed on June 15 last year in the Galwan Valley in violent hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops. This led to a large deployment of troops and heavy weaponry by both armies at the friction points in eastern Ladakh.
China identified the casualties on its side only in February this year, saying that four soldiers died. However, it is widely believed that the toll was higher.
So far, the two sides have held 11 rounds of military talks for disengagement and de-escalation in Ladakh.