Beijing is the first to publicly acknowledge that its crews fell victim to a fatal brawl that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers.
China’s military said Friday that four of its soldiers were killed in a bloody clash between the Himalayan border and Indian forces last June. For the first time, Beijing has publicly admitted that its side suffered casualties in the deadliest incident between Asian rivals in nearly 45 years.
India announced at the time that it had lost 20 of its soldiers in the June 2020 fighting in the Galwan Valley in the Ladakh region across from Tibet. Soldiers used their fists, clubs, stones and other improvised weapons to avoid an outright gun battle.
Beijing at the time admitted that the clash had resulted in casualties but did not confirm whether Chinese soldiers had died.
The Chinese soldiers “sacrificed themselves” during the June confrontation in the embattled border area of the Galwan Valley with an unnamed “foreign military,” said the Chinese Defense Ministry.
The People’s Liberation Army daily said the four Chinese soldiers and officers killed were all honored and named as martyrs, while a fifth was also awarded by the ruling Communist Party’s Central Military Commission.
After several rounds of negotiations, the sides are now gradually withdrawing from their original positions.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said the deal would “substantially restore the situation before the stalemate began last year”.
China has dismantled dozens of structures and moved vehicles to empty entire warehouses in Pangong Tso in the Ladakh region [Satellite image 2021 Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]Previously, unconfirmed reports had raised the death toll in China to 45, and Lieutenant General YK Joshi, commanding the Indian Army’s Northern Command, said Indian observers counted more than 60 Chinese troops being evacuated on stretchers, although it was not clear how many had suffered fatal injuries.
Joshi told Indian broadcaster News18 that the Chinese armed forces appeared to be unwilling to make concessions until the Indian armed forces occupied the heights of command on August 29-30. On February 10, an agreement was reached on the withdrawal.
The tense stalemate high in the Karakoram began in early May when Indian and Chinese soldiers ignored each other’s repeated verbal warnings and triggered a screaming match, stone throwing, and fistfighting on the north bank of Lake Pangong, characterized by eight contested ridges flow into the rivers Waters.
By June, friction escalated and spread northward in Depsang and the Galwan Valley, where India has built an all-weather military road along the disputed border.
After the border collisions, the two countries stationed tens of thousands of soldiers, supported by artillery, tanks and fighter planes, along the de facto border, the so-called Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Military trucks with supplies move to areas in the Ladakh region on September 15, 2020. [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]Each side accused the other of instigating the violence that has dramatically changed relations between India and China. New Delhi banned dozens of Chinese apps popular in India.
Relations between the two countries have often been strained, in part due to their unmarked border.
In 1962 they waged a border war that spilled over to Ladakh and ended in a troubled armistice marked by additional clashes. Since then, troops have guarded the undefined border and occasionally fought.
The highly competitive line of control separates Chinese and Indian owned areas from Ladakh in the west to the eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety.
According to India, the de facto border is 3,488 kilometers long, while China says it is significantly shorter. As the name suggests, the LAC divides the areas of physical control rather than territorial claims.