Four more Indian soldiers are in critical condition after the violent face-off with Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh on Monday evening, ANI reported on Wednesday citing unidentified officials. Tensions between the two countries have been rising since May after Chinese troops clashed with the Indian Army at several points along the Line of Actual Control – the disputed border between the two countries, which is neither defined nor demarcated.
The Army on Tuesday had confirmed that 20 soldiers were killed during a de-escalation process in Galwan Valley. These are the first fatalities on the Line of Actual Control between the nuclear-armed neighbours in more than 40 years.
The Indian Army as well as China have said that said there were casualties on both sides, but there has been no word on the extent of it on the Chinese side. China’s defence ministry confirmed that the incident had resulted in casualties but did not give details while the country’s military chose not to talk about it.
Both India and China have blamed each other for the scuffle.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said that the face-off at Eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley was due to China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the area. “On the late-evening and night of 15th June, 2020, a violent face-off happened as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Tuesday. “Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side.”
China, however, accused India of crossing the border twice and attacking its troops, and China’s Foreign Ministry asked India not to take unilateral actions. The People’s Liberation Army Western Theater Command claimed that Indian troops “broke their promises” by once again crossing the Line of Actual Control and purposefully launched “provocative attacks”.
The dispute between India and China centres around a strategic bridge being built near Daulat Beg Oldi, a military post south of the Karakoram Pass. China has reportedly asked India to stop building infrastructure even on its own side of the LAC. New Delhi, on the other hand, has asked Beijing to maintain the status quo on the border. In recent weeks, India and China have reportedly deployed additional troops along the LAC at North Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.
Earlier in May, there were reports of China pitching tents near river Galwan, which was also a flashpoint between New Delhi and Beijing during the Sino-Indian war of 1962. Both India and China had deployed additional security forces in the area amid heightened tensions.
Last week, the two countries agreed to peacefully resolve the border-standoff after high-level military talks. The meeting was held at the Border Personnel Meeting Point in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.
China continued to maintain its silence on the casualties suffered by the People’s Liberation Army in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. The army and the country’s foreign ministry admitted that the “fierce physical conflict” led to casualties, but refused to share details of the toll.
However, an unidentified official told US News that American intelligence believes 35 Chinese troops died in the scuffle. The deceased included a senior officer also. According to the US assessment, the Chinese government considers the casualties a humiliation for its armed forces and hence has kept it under wraps. Indian news agency ANI on Tuesday reported, citing “Indian intercepts”, that at least 43 Chinese soldiers were either killed or injured in the clash.
It has been maintained by both China and India that there was no use of firearm during the face-off. The US intelligence believes that all the casualties were either from the use of batons and knives or from falls from the steep topography.