A Chinese commanding officer was also among those killed in the deadly clashes between Chinese and Indian troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, on 15 June, has been confirmed by China, say sources. This revelation comes as the Chinese and Indian sides are holding Lieutenant-General level talks in Moldo to resume the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which were stalled after the Galwan clashes, the deadliest along the Sino-Indian border since 1967. The Chinese confirmation on the commanding officer’s death came during military talks last week in Galwan with India. However, Beijing has not confirmed how many members of their army were injured or killed in total, saying that they did not want the situation to escalate, as per the sources.
There are also fresh details emerging on what happened in Galwan during the deadly clashes on 15 June. According to a report by The Economic Times, most of the Indian casualties during the clash occurred after 9 pm on Monday, 15 June, after soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the army of China, descended in large numbers from across the LAC to Patrol Point 14, which was the site of the main clash. The report also states, quoting sources, that 17 bodies were handed over to the Chinese side after the clashes, and over 40 stretchers were seen on the other side as well. However, there is still no clarity on whether all those being transported on the stretchers were dead, or if some were injured.
The sources also told Economic Times that there was an understanding achieved after the military’s Lieutenant-General level meeting on 6 June, that all temporary structures in Galwan would be taken down and thereby the distance between the two troops, which have been eyeball-to-eyeball in confrontation to admit the orders to pull back since May, would be increased. It is to check on this very disengagement process that Colonel Santosh Babu, the commanding officer of the Bihar Regiment who was killed during the clashes, had gone on 15 June, with a small troop of 40 soldiers. However, they sighted an observation post and a tent with Chinese military watchdogs pitched on the Indian side of the LAC. On insisting that the tent should be removed as per the terms of disengagement, Babu was met with resistance but the Chinese soon moved back and the tent was destroyed by the Indian troops.
The Indian troop then proceeded to Patrol Point 14 to check if the Chinese had retreated from pulling themselves back as well, but noticed another observation post at the spot that gave the Chinese a clear eye-line view of the Galwan Valley, the Shyok confluence and a strategic road that leads to the Daulat Beg Oldie.
It is here that things went ugly. As the Indian side tried to dismantle the Chinese observation point, they were attacked by Chinese soldiers who had crossed over from the LAC and surreptitiously gathered in the dark.
“Colonel Babu got hit in the head but it is not clear if he was specifically targeted. Since he was marching towards the point from the front, he was in the line of attack. But, once word got out that he had been killed –– it took some time to retrieve the remains – Indian troops posted at the back joined in and a hand-to-hand fight took place that lasted several hours,” sources told The Economic Times.
It is after the disengagement process the next morning that the actual number of casualties came to light. The Chinese structures at Patrol Point 14 had also been demolished during the clashes.