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Revisiting The Galwan Valley Clash

On 15 June 2020, Indian and Chinese troops clashed for six hours at patrolling post 14 in the Galwan Valley's hilly region. The incident's initial cause is unknown, and both parties have issued contradictory official statements in the aftermath.

According to a report from Beijing, Indian troops attacked Chinese troops first. But on June 18 of the same year, the Hindu quoted a "senior government official" in India's Ministry of External Affairs as saying that their troops were ambushed by Chinese troops who threw stones. The incident occurred while they were patrolling a disputed area where Colonel Santosh Babu had destroyed a Chinese tent two days prior, according to the statement.

While soldiers carry firearms, agreements prohibit the use of firearms due to decades of tradition preventing an escalation. However, the Chinese have iron rods, clubs, and batons wrapped in wire, and clubs packed with nails.

Soon the combat began, and the Indian soldiers requested reinforcements from a station approximately 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) away. Up to 600 men were eventually engaged in combat with stones, batons, iron rods, and other weapons. The battles lasted up to six hours and were fought in near-total darkness. In a year-end review for 2020, India's Defence Ministry stated that China used "unorthodox weapons."

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the fighting, mostly from the 16th Bihar Regiment, including its commanding officer, Colonel Santosh Babu. Three Indian soldiers died on the spot, while others died of injuries and cold.

The battle took place near the fast-flowing Galwan River, and men from both sides were killed or injured when they fell into the stream. Several news channels reported that the Chinese military kidnapped ten Indian soldiers, including four officers, on June 18 and eventually released them. An unconfirmed number of Chinese soldiers were also arrested and later freed by India, according to General VK Singh.

On June 16 2020, Chinese Colonel Zhang Shuili, a spokesperson for the People's Liberation Army Western Command, said that the Indian military had violated bilateral agreements, resulting in "fierce physical encounters and casualties," and that "China has always enjoyed authority over the Galwan Valley area."

Image Via DNA India

Soon after India's External Affairs Minister said that China had "unilaterally attempted to change the status quo" and that the violence had been "premeditated and planned." The Chinese PLA had "invaded" the "disputed area" between India and China, according to the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Prime Minister Modi, on the other hand, stated four days after the clash, on June 19 that "neither [China] has intruded into our border, nor has any station been taken over by them," contradicting multiple previous comments by the Indian government. The Prime Minister's Office later clarified that the Indian Prime Minister wanted to recognize the bravery of the 16 Bihar Regiment for dodging the Chinese attempt. U.S. News & World Report reported on 22 June 2020 that US intelligence agencies think the clash was ordered by China's Western Theatre Command chief, General Zhao Zongqi.

Following the event at Galwan, the Indian Army decided to provide lightweight riot gear as well as spiked sticks to troops deployed near the border. On June 20, India lifted restrictions on Indian soldiers' use of firearms near the Line of Actual Control. China has increased building in the Galwan valley since the 15 June conflict, according to satellite pictures analysed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. By the 22 June, the Chinese post that had been destroyed by Indian troops on 15 June had been rebuilt, with a larger size and more military movement. In the valley, both Indian and Chinese forces have built new defensive positions.

References:, Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi. (2020, June 18). Galwan Valley face-off: Indian, Chinese military officials meet to defuse tension. Hindustan Times.

Haidar, S., & Peri, D. (2020, June 19). Ladakh face-off | Days after clash, China frees 10 Indian soldiers. The Hindu.

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