On 18 June, at least ten Indian soldiers—including at least one officer and two junior commissioned officers—were released by the Chinese army. They were taken captive by the Chinese during the clash between the two sides at Patrolling Point No 14 near the LAC. Ten soldiers were brought to Leh for treatment on Thursday. Five of them have sustained critical injuries and four have fractures. The soldiers belong to the following units: 3 Punjab (5), 81 Field Regt (2), 3 Mountain Regt (1), and 16 Bihar (2).
Despite the return of the second-in-command of an infantry battalion after the commander of Karu based 3rd Division, Maj Gen Abhijit Bapat, negotiated for hours with his Chinese counterpart, the India-China standoff has hit a dead end. Neither India nor China seem interested in troop withdrawal from the disputed region of Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
Sources tell The Quint that India did not take any Chinese soldiers as prisoners.
Bravery of Indian Soldiers
Meanwhile, soldiers are singing paeans for the bravery of the lieutenant-colonel, who came back on Thursday. As per an eyewitness account, the officer in question asked the soldiers under his command to fix bayonets on the rifles and resist the Chinese attack. As per the LCA protocols, troops on both the sides are discouraged from using firearms. “He led the charge after the Commanding Officer 16 Bihar, late Col Santosh Babu was killed by the Chinese.”
According to some reports, the Chinese blocked the river flow to flood the Indian troops. High-level government and military officials have denied this. One official says, “A dam cannot be built and neither can a reservoir get filled is such a short span to cause ‘flooding’. Indian side was vastly outnumbered and that’s about it.”
Another senior Army officer who was involved during the Doklam crisis in 2017, now retired, comments that the present situation in Galwan and that in Doklam are like “chalk and cheese”. He further adds that this time, “several opportunities have been lost to defuse the situation through dialogue and blocking”.
Clash of Soldiers Followed by Clash of Egos
Official statements on Thursday evening had suggested that all the Indian soldiers were accounted for and none of them was “missing”. This led to a flurry of speculations on social media that the government intended to hide the fact that the Chinese had captured some of the soldiers that got attacked on the night of 15 June.
A retired Lieutenant General of Indian Army tells The Quint that the Corps Commander level talks, when Lt Gen Harinder Singh met his Chinese counterpart Major General Liu Lin—the commander of South Xinjiang Military Region of the People’s Liberation Army—should have anticipated or proscribed any clash like this violent exchange.
While the talks on Thursday succeeded for India in securing a safe passage for at least ten army personnel, the territory claim remains seething. Source have shared with The Quint that it has become a “clash of egos” for both the countries. Nationalism is a formidable driving force in both India and China and any concessions to the other side may appear as a compromise of “territorial integrity”. Sources say that there is almost no likelihood of a one-to-one discussion between PM Modi wit his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.
Politics Over Galwan Clashes
On the domestic politics front, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hosting an all-party meet today to discuss India’s further course of action. The INC has decided to put across some tough questions on the 15 June clash. Initially, there was no consensus within the party on the issue of cornering the government. “There is clear consensus in the party and we have decided to raise the issue of S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, participating in the RIC (Russia-India-China) grouping meet. We’ll also raise questions about BJP government’s silence over the issue and intelligence failures,” a senior INC members shares.