China on Friday for the first time named four soldiers who died, and another, who was injured, during the clash with Indian troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in June, Beijing’s mouthpiece the Global Times reported. This comes eight months after China refused to disclose details of casualties in the deadly brawl with India.
The admission of the casualties by the People’s Liberation Army also coincides with the disengagement of troops by both sides at the North and South banks of the Pangong Lake that had become a flashpoint in their prolonged border dispute.
The deceased soldiers were identified as Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran. All of them were given posthumous awards. Chen Hongjun was given the title of “Guardian of the Frontier Hero,” while the other three men were also given first-class merit citations, according to Reuters.
A fifth soldier, Qi Fabao, was also identified. Qi, the regimental commander from the People Liberation Army Xinjiang Military Command, was given the title of “Hero regimental commander for defending the border”.
China said that Qi “sustained a serious head injury” during the clash. While he is the only injured soldier Beijing has identified so far, the total injuries on their side is expected to be higher.
The Chinese media used the phrase “foreign troops” to describe the Indian military, which it said violated an agreement and crossed into the Chinese side. Global Times claimed that this move exemplified “China’s restraint of not inciting sentiments of the public” against the background of the current disengagement of troops of China and India along the border areas.
“Since April 2020, relevant foreign military violated the previous agreement...they [India] trespassed the border line to build roads and bridges and intentionally incited troubles, changing the status quo along the border... they even violently attacked Chinese soldiers that were sent for communication,” Global Times said, giving Beijing’s version of events.
However, Chinese Defence Ministry Spokesperson Colonel Ren Guoqian directly named the Indian military in his statement, Global Times reported. “We must note that the Galwan Valley skirmish in June of last year is the Indian military’s responsibility, as they illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control, initiated the incident and violently assaulted and attacked the Chinese military, causing casualties on both sides,” Ren was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the Chinese state-run media released videos of the Galwan clash, showing hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops confronting each other, reported NDTV. In one video, soldiers can be seen crossing a river and meeting on the banks, where troops from both sides are pushing each other. Part of the video shot at night shows soldiers from both sides with flashlights, batons and shields.
Sharing the video in a tweet, Shen Shiwei, a Chinese media analyst, alleged that it can be seen how India troops trespassed into China.
In another video, Chinese troops can be seen talking aggressively to an Indian soldier. The Indian soldier says that hitting a vehicle is not needed and “misunderstanding” can be settled through talks.
The video appears contrary to the claim of China that the Indian military initiated the incident and violently assaulted and attacked the Chinese military. Shen said in the tweet that China Central Military Commission has honoured the “Heroic Regimental Commander in Border Defense” to Qi Fabao, the man in winter coat who can be seen shouting.
Both India and China blame each other for the confrontation in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control, which was the deadliest in 45 years. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the hand-to-hand combat with clubs, stones and fists. While Beijing had acknowledged casualties, it had not disclosed details up till Friday.
The dispute sparked off a tensed standoff between the two countries, with both sides bolstering forces along their sides of the border for months. This was followed by a flurry of military and diplomatic dialogue on ending the crisis, which had been unable to settle on an agreement until February.
Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that China decided to unveil the details of the incident to “refute previous disinformation that stated China suffered greater casualties than India or China incited the incident”.
“The facts show to the international community that the responsibility of the deadly skirmish in the Galwan Valley falls on the Indian military, and the Chinese military had to fight back when facing challenges,” Qian added. “China also wants to show that it cherishes peace but when it comes to core interests of sovereignty and territory, China will not be afraid and the Chinese military has the confidence and capability to beat back all violators.”