New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: In a massive escalation of border tension between India and China, 20 Indian Army soldiers were killed while the Chinese troops suffered 43 casualties during a “violent face-off” in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night, news agency ANI quoted government sources as saying.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh amid violent escalation of standoff between the Indian and Chinese soldiers along the LAC.  

According to ANI, a meeting between Major Generals of India and China was also held in an attempt to defuse the situation in the Galwan Valley, Ladakh and other areas after the violent face-off last night

It is the first incident involving the casualty of an Indian soldier in a violent clash with the Chinese Army after 1975 when four Indian soldiers of Assam Rifles were killed in an ambush at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh along the de-facto border between the two countries.

The Army said India lost an officer and two soldiers during the violent face-off, while there were casualties on the Chinese side as well.

"During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties on both sides. The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers. Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation," the Army said in a brief statement.

However, contesting the Indian Army's position that the violent face-off took place between the troops during the "de-escalation process" in the Galwan Valley, China alleged that the Indian troops twice crossed the border line on June 15 for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides.

"Our border troops had a high-level meeting and reached important consensus on easing the border situation but astonishingly on June 15 the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides and China has lodged strong protest and representation with the Indian side," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

"We once again solemnly ask the Indian side to follow our consensus, strictly regulate its front-line troops and do not cross the line, do not stir up troubles or make unilateral moves that may complicate matters," the spokesperson said.

Zhao also added that both sides agree to resolve this issue through dialogue and consultation and make efforts for easing the situation and upholding the peace and security along the border area.

News agency PTI quoted official sources saying that there was no firing between the two sides.

It is learnt that the Army officer killed in the clash was the commanding officer of a battalion at Galwan. It is believed that the three Army men died due to injuries sustained following stone-pelting by the Chinese side. However, there is no official word on it.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the current operational situation in eastern Ladakh along with Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was also present in the meeting.

As per report, Singh also briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the situation along the Line of Actual Control during the latter's video conference meeting wiht chief ministers over the COVID-19. 

Sources said Army Chief Gen MM Naravane's visit to a base outside Delhi has been cancelled.

Large number of Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Galwan Valley and certain other areas of eastern Ladakh for last five weeks.

The incident comes days after the Indian Army Chief said both sides have begun disengaging from Galwan Valley.

China's state-run newspaper Global Times claimed in a report that clashes were triggered by Indian troops as they crossed over to the Chinese side and carried out attacks on Chinese soldiers.

The Indian and Chinese armies are engaged in the standoff in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh. A sizeable number of Chinese Army personnel even transgressed into the Indian side of the de-facto border in several areas including Pangong Tso.

The Indian Army has been fiercely objecting to the transgressions, and demanded their immediate withdrawal for restoration of peace and tranquillity in the area. Both sides held a series of talks in the last few days to resolve the row.

In their first serious efforts to end the row, Lt General Harinder Singh, the general officer commanding of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Commander of the Tibet Military District Maj Gen Liu Lin held a nearly seven-hour meeting on June 6.The meeting was followed by two rounds of Major General-level talks.

The Indian side has been pitching for restoration of status quo ante and immediate withdrawal of thousands of Chinese troops from the areas which India considers on its side of the LAC.

On Saturday, Gen Naravane said both sides are "disengaging" in a phased manner.

"We have started from the north, from the area of the Galwan river where a lot of disengagement has taken place. It has been a very fruitful dialogue that we have had," he had said.

Following the standoff in eastern Ladakh, the two sides have deployed additional troops along the LAC, the de-facto Sino-India border, in North Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh in the last few days, the sources said.

After the standoff began early last month, the Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.

The Chinese Army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the LAC by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment.

The trigger for the face-off was China's stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.

The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrol. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests.

The situation in the area deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.

Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

(With PTI inputs)

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta