The Chinese military’s statement on the violent clash in eastern Ladakh has a claim that China has not made directly for decades – sovereignty over entire the Galwan valley.
The Indian Army has stated that 20 Indian soldiers were killed in action in a violent face-off with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan area on Monday night. This marked a sharp escalation in tensions between the two countries, who had reportedly been in the midst of a process of disengagement from their stand-off that began six weeks ago.
Both the Chinese foreign ministry and army asserted that Indian troops had provoked the violence by crossing over to their territory, but the latter explicitly cited China’s claims.
“The sovereignty over the Galvan Valley area has always belonged to China,” said PLA western theatre command spokesperson Colonel Zhang Shiuli.
While a Chinese map of 1962 extends its boundary up to the Shyok river – the zone of contention today – for India, Galwan was always seen as an area where the lay of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was not disputed, unlike in other places like Pangong Tso, where there were overlapping claims.
Therefore, it had been a rude wake-up call when India first observed Chinese troops pouring into the Galwan region in early May, leading to the first face-off on the night of May 5-6.
The People’s Liberation Army assault teams armed with iron rods and batons wrapped in barbed wire hunted down and slaughtered troops of the 16 Bihar Regiment, a senior government official familiar with the debriefing of survivors at hospitals in Leh News18 reported.
Indian military sources had said that the Chinese build-up of troops in Galwan had been unexpected since this was usually the season for PLA to conduct exercises at their traditional grounds at Kangixwar and Xaidulla. Instead, India had claimed that China had violated the spirit of the border agreement, by not confining their troops to their traditional exercise grounds, but rather spilling them from Galwan into other areas of contention in eastern Ladakh.
Galwan has a role in historical memory of the Sino-Indian conflict as it was the first Indian post that was overwhelmed by the Chinese in summer of 1962 – and was one of the first markers of the start of the war.
However, since then, Galwan had been a relatively peaceful area of the LAC, where Indian and Chinese patrol teams did not come face-to-face unlike other contentious sections, as per Indian military sources. The situation has changed now.