Five Chinese soldiers were killed in the June 15 clash at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, China’s army has confirmed during military and diplomatic talks with India at Moldo earlier this week, government sources have said.
This is the first time that China has given any casualty figure for its troops in the clash. Earlier, government sources had said Beijing had admitted that a Chinese commanding officer was among those killed in hand-to-hand combat near Galwan River 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in action during the clash.
A top government source in South Block told CNN-News18 aware of the talks said the actual Chinese toll would be much higher. “When the Chinese say five, multiply it by three,” said the source.
India and China have been embroiled in a standoff in eastern Ladakh since early May. The government official, said that while the standoff may have officially started in May this year, China had been trying to escalate matters at the Line of Actual Control since right after the 2017 Doklam crisis.
The official said that the PLA had started sending patrol parties comprising 50 to 100 men, instead of the 15-20 soldiers that was usually the norm.
“After 2017, the Chinese disregarded the mutually agreed protocol of having no more than 20 men in one patrol party. Sure enough these bigger Chinese patrols started physically intimidating our patrols. Many ended in scuffles,” said the source, on condition of anonymity.
India had raised the matter multiple times with the Chinese but it fell on deaf ears. The Indian military establishment believes that China had been planning its land grabbing exercise in eastern Ladakh for at least the last one year if not before, and Covid-19 gave them the perfect opportunity.
In April, when the Chinese mobilization started, the Indian Army was busy trying to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t spread in its ranks. As a result, the annual Army exercise in Ladakh, which would have meant large mobilisation of troops and tanks in the region, was cancelled.
This gave the PLA a virtual walkover. “We thought they have come and like every year they will go back. How were we to know that they had no intentions of going back," the officer asked.
When asked why the Chinese transgressed into Indian territory without any provocation the top source said, “We ask ourselves that question every day".
The seventh round of Corps Commander talks are scheduled for next week, and will have a diplomat in attendance. Sources say that having MEA joint secretary Navin Srivastava at the previous meeting in Moldo helped block the confusion China creates. The sixth round of talks had lasted 14 hours.
Sources say that China at the WMCC meet would say let ground level army commanders sort the issue out, and at the ground level, commanders used to say we don’t have the mandate, ensuring that the standoff continues for longer.
It is at the insistence of India that a joint statement was issued after the sixth Corps Commander-level meet on September 21, so that everything is on record and China cannot go back on its word.