New Delhi: In a dramatic and violent escalation in the ongoing border standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh, 20 soldiers of the Indian Army were martyred and an unspecified number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops killed as a violent clash broke out between the two sides in Galwan Valley late Monday night. Also Read - 'India's Territorial Integrity Won't be Compromised Under PM Modi': JP Nadda on Ladakh Clash
Confirming its casualties, the Army, in a statement said, “Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at Galwan area where they had earlier clashed on the night of 15/16 June. 17 Indian troops, who were critically injured in the line of duty at stand-off location, exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20.” Also Read - Ladakh Clash: Galwan Valley Was Always Ours, Claims China; India Says Committed to Ensure Territorial Integrity
“Indian Army is firmly committed to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation,” the statement further noted. Also Read - 'Words Can't Describe Pain I Feel': Rahul Gandhi Pays Tribute to Ladakh Martyrs
Notably, earlier in the day, the Army had confirmed its first three casualties: Colonel Santosh Babu who was the Commanding Officer of the 16 Bihar Regiment, Havaldar Palani and Sepoy Kundan Jha. The remaining 17 casualties were confirmed in the night.
While the number of casualties on the Indian side are confirmed, Beijing is yet to give a figure on the number of casualties/injuries the PLA troops have suffered. However, according to government sources in New Delhi, 43 Chinese soldiers were killed as well.
The number of casualties, however, is expected to rise.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that clash took place as the Chinese side ‘unilaterally’ tried to change the status quo across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. It further said that India was undertaking all its activities on its side of the LAC, also remarking that the deaths could have been avoided but for Beijing.
China, however, has said that it was the Indian troops that crossed the LAC to enter the Chinese territory, warning New Delhi against doing anything that would raise tensions even further.
Meanwhile, a number of high-level meetings took place in the national capital as Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met CDS General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs at least twice. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar too met to discuss the situation.
This is the first time that there have been casualties in an India-China border skirmish since 1975. The two countries also fought a war in 1962, which was won decisively by China.