A lot of details regarding the recent clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in Ladakh have remained hidden beneath a shroud of secrecy. However, with the passage of time, more details are emerging with regards to what exactly transpired on that night. A report by news agency ANI on June 15, talks were to be held between two countries near the Y junction of Shyok and Galwan rivers in eastern Ladakh centres.
Indian security forces, including 16 Bihar Regiment, were asked to ensure that the Chinese pos was removed by them. Hence, a small patrol party was sent to convey the same message to the Chinese. The ANI report says that the 10-12 Chinese troops manning the post were asked by the Indian troops to go away as the same was agreed upon during senior level military talks. When Chinese refused to do so, the Indian troops returned to the unit to update on the development.
Following this, Commander Officer of the 16 Bihar Infantry Battalion controlling the area Colonel B Santosh Babu visited the site with a team of 35 men. A report by India Today’s Shiv Aroor says that on his arrival, he observed that the PLA men posted there were not the ones who usually patrolled the area but new troops who had been transferred there at short notice. It is believed that these men were sent in from a PLA exercise in Tibet in the second half of May.
Aroor’s report states that during the earlier held talks, the Chinese observation post which was set up on the vertex of Galwan River was proven to be on the Indian side and hence an agreement was reached to dismantle it. The Chinese dismantled the post a few days later. In fact, Aroor reports that Colonel B Santosh Babu even held talks with his Chinese counterpart the day after it was dismantled. However, on 14th June, the observation post was again set up by the Chinese.
Hence, Colonel Santosh Babu, at around 5 PM on June 15, again went up to the camp with a team. ANI report states that Chinese had called in for reinforcements and built up troops on higher ground. They had also stocked up on stones and weapons ready to launch an attack on Indian troops.
These new troops were belligerent and misbehaved with Colonel Babu which angered the troops. But as the CO, he maintained his calm. As the argument became heated one, the Indian side started uprooting the tents and equipments. This is when the Chinese started attacking Indians. It was during this bout of stone pelting that one of the stones hit that took lives of Colonel Babu and Havildar Pilani of 16 Bihar Regiment. ANI report suggests that after the CO was martyred, the Indian side lost their cool and attacked the Chinese ferociously despite being heavily outnumbered.
Indian side had about 100 men while Chinese had over 350 people on location including the ones on higher ground pelting stones on Indian troops. The fight went on for several hours till late in the night till. During the course of the fight, several Chinese as well as Indian soldiers dropped into the river. Several Chinese troops were either dead or seriously injured.
Quoting sources, ANI states that the next morning when the situation was relatively calm, the Indian troops returned the dead bodies of Chinese troops which were lying in the open.
Significantly, Shiv Aroor reported that 16 Chinese bodies including that of 5 officers were handed over to them by the Indian Army following a brawl. However, the men the journalist spoke to insisted that it wasn’t a prisoner exchange and both sides had taken care and provided treatment to the men in their custody. 10 men of the Indian Army were taken by the Chinese during the Galwan Valley clash, Aroor reports.
“It was not a captivity situation. We were providing medical treatment to their men. And they were treating our men,” a top Army official told India Today. Union Minister General V.K. Singh also said on Saturday during an interview that India had taken PLA troops during the Galwan Valley clash as well but asserted that these things are not spoken of as they are of no consequence. He said that while 20 Indian soldiers were martyred, China had lost more than double that number.
However, soon after, the Chinese have reinforced their positions near the location and have their offensive forces ready. Lieutenant General level talks are scheduled in coming days between Indian and Chinese side to defuse the situation further on PP-14, PP-15 and PP-17A. However, despite being heavily outnumbered, the 16 Bihar Regiment soldiers managed to uproot the Chinese position at the Patrolling Point 14.