Colonel B Santosh Babu and some of the other Indian Army personnel, who were killed while valiantly fighting Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year, are expected to be honoured with gallantry awards on Republic Day, sources said on Monday. Col Babu, the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar regiment, was among 20 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the fierce hand-to-hand combat on June 15 in the Galwan Valley, an incident that marked one of the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in decades.
China is yet to disclose the number of its soldiers killed and injured in the clash though it officially admitted to having suffered casualties. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35. The Galwan Valley clash had escalated the border row in eastern Ladakh and resulted in a large deployment of troops and heavy weaponry by both the armies in the friction points.
“Some of the Army personnel including Col Babu who displayed extreme courage during the Galwan clash are expected to be honoured on Republic Day,” said a source. The Chinese soldiers used stones, nail-studded sticks, iron rods and clubs in carrying out brutal attacks on Indian soldiers after they protested the erection of a surveillance post by China around patrolling point 14 in the Galwan Valley.
The Indian Army has already built a memorial for the ‘Gallants of Galwan’ at Post 120 in eastern Ladakh. The memorial mentioned their heroics under operation ‘Snow Leopard’ and the way they evicted the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops from the area while inflicting “heavy casualties” on them.
Separately, the Department of Military Affairs is in process of inscribing the names of Colonel Babu and the 19 other soldiers at the National War Memorial in Delhi. During a visit to Lukung forward post in eastern Ladakh on July 17, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh personally conveyed his appreciation and compliments to the troops from the Bihar regiment for displaying exemplary grit and courage in fighting the Chinese troops.
India and China are locked in a bitter military standoff in eastern Ladakh for the last eight months. Nearly 50,000 troops of the Indian Army are currently deployed in a high state of combat readiness in the mountainous region in sub-zero temperatures as multiple rounds of talks between the two sides have not yielded concrete outcome to resolve the standoff.
China has also deployed an equal number of troops, according to officials. Last month, India and China had held another round of diplomatic talks under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs.
The eighth and last round of military talks between the two sides had taken place on November 6 during which both sides broadly discussed disengagement of troops from specific friction points. India has all along been maintaining that the onus is on China to carry forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation at the friction points in the mountainous region.