Authored by Christophe Barraud
More details are emerging about the violent clash on Monday night along a disputed border between India and China high in the Himalayas, which has led to renewed tensions between the two countries. The incident came despite India and China have started to pull back their forces along the border after talks between senior military officials, according to India’s Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane on June 13.
According to Bloomberg, “in near sub-zero temperatures in the thin air of 15,000 feet, Chinese and Indian soldiers attacked each other with stones, iron rods and bamboo poles wrapped in barbed wire laced with nails. It is not clear what started the clashes, but by the time they were finished 20 Indian soldiers were dead, along with an unknown number of Chinese casualties.” CNN also confirmed that “they fought with fists, stones, and nail-studded bamboo poles.”
Indian media reported that the battle was fought after Indian troops tried to verify that Chinese soldiers had honoured a pledge to withdraw from a strategic position. The Economic Times noted that “according to one version, the CO (Commander Officer) had gone to the standoff point with a party of 50 men to check if the Chinese had retreated as promised. As the Indian side proceeded to demolish and burn illegal Chinese structures on its side of the LAC, including an observation post constructed on the South bank of the river, a fresh stand off took place as a large force of Chinese troops returned back.” The newspaper added “sources said that a Chinese force in excess of 250 quickly assembled near Patrol Point 14 and were physically stopped by Indian soldiers from entering Indian territory. Soldiers from both sides did not use firearms but the Chinese soldiers carried spiked sticks to attack.”
The Hindu reported that “the Indian Army on Tuesday said 20 Army personnel, including a Colonel, were killed on Monday night in the biggest-ever military confrontation between the two armies in over five decades.” It noted that “China has not yet talked about the number of casualties suffered by the People’s Liberation Army during the clash.” But revealed that “sources in the government are claiming that as per U.S. intelligence reports, the Chinese Army suffered 35 casualties during the violent clash with the Indian military in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.” “the figure could be a combination of total number of soldiers killed and seriously wounded”, the article added.
Meanwhile, India Today reported “Indian troops assaulted the Chinese post with brutal strength and seriously injured nearly 55-56 Chinese solider. Many casualties were inflicted at this point. Sources said there were many fatalities on the Chinese side but there was no confirmation on the exact number.”
Separately, although ABC news confirmed that “India has reported 20 Indian soldiers, including a colonel, have died of severe injuries in the dispute on Monday night local time”, it reported that “Indian news outlet ANI cited unnamed sources saying at least 43 Chinese troops were dead or seriously injured.”
All in all, the real number of Chinese casualties remain uncertain. When questioned about this topic, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: “the border troops of the two sides are dealing with the specifics on the ground.” In addition, Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, said in a Twitter post the Chinese side had suffered casualties. In another tweet, he underlined that his understanding is “the Chinese side doesn’t want people of the two countries to compare the casualties number so to avoid stoking public mood.”
Based on what I know, Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash. I want to tell the Indian side, don’t be arrogant and misread China’s restraint as being weak. China doesn’t want to have a clash with India, but we don’t fear it.— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 16, 2020
Chinese side didn’t release number of PLA casualties in clash with Indian soldiers. My understanding is the Chinese side doesn’t want people of the two countries to compare the casualties number so to avoid stoking public mood. This is goodwill from Beijing.— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 16, 2020
In this context, Xinhua reported that “Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggested on Wednesday that China and India strengthen communication and coordination on properly addressing the border situation and jointly maintain the peace and tranquility in the border areas.” However, he also blamed the Indians for the deadly border clash. The article highlighted that “in a telephone conversation with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Wang said that Indian frontline border defense troops on Monday night blatantly broke the consensus reached at the commander-level talks between the militaries of the two sides.” “The hazardous move of the Indian army severely violated the agreement reached between the two countries on the border issue and the basic norms of international relations, he said, while voicing China’s strong opposition to the move of the Indian side.”
On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed India will defend its sovereignty in his first public statement. According to Bloomberg, “India wants peace,” Modi said in a televised address Wednesday. “But when provoked India will and is capable of giving an appropriate answer under any circumstances. And on the subject of our martyred, brave soldiers — the nation will be proud that they died while hitting back.”
Lastly, on the economic front, Bloomberg suggested that the clash posed “an escalation risks disruption for firms from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Xiaomi Corp. to Tata Motors Ltd. that have customers — and investors — in two of the world’s biggest economies.”
An escalation in the #IndiaChinaFaceOff risks disruption for firms from Alibaba and Xiaomi to Tata Motors that have customers—and investors—in two of the world’s biggest economies.https://t.co/zS4IYiEvnu— Kaushik Vaidya (@KaushikVaidya) June 18, 2020