Three days after clashes in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh left 20 Indian soldiers dead, the Chinese on Thursday evening released 10 Indian Army personnel, including a Lieutenant Colonel and three Majors, from their custody.
A security source told
Separately, the Army clarified in a statement that there were “no Indian troops missing in action”.
‘Soldiers were armed’
In another development, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said the Indian troops, who were outnumbered and attacked by the Chinese side, carried arms.
“All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving post. Those at Galwan on June 15 did so. Long-standing practice (as per 1996 & 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during faceoffs,” Dr. Jaishankar said on Twitter , in response to a tweet from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi .
Article VI of the 1996 agreement between India and China on “Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) in the military field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas” says, “Neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometers from the line of actual control. This prohibition shall not apply to routine firing activities in small arms firing ranges.”
Commenting on the 1996 agreement, former Northern Army Commander Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag said these agreements apply to border management and not while dealing with a tactical military situation. “Lastly when lives of soldiers or security of post/territory threatened, Commander on the spot can use all weapons at his disposal including artillery,” he said on Twitter.
The third round of talks at the Major General-level were held in the Galwan area. Specific outcomes from Thursday’s meeting were not immediately known, but a source said the talks were positive and there would be more meetings in the coming days. The effort was to reduce tensions on the ground and implement the consensus agreed on June 6 for de-escalation, the source added.
The Army had stated that both sides had disengaged from the site of the clash. However, both sides continue to retain a large number of troops in the general Galwan area following the build-up along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) after the violent scuffle at Pangong Tso on May 5 and the standoff since.
In the first combat fatalities in 45 years along the LAC, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash after they were attacked by Chinese troops. About 80 Indian troops were also injured and all of them are said to be stable.
The Chinese PLA Western Theatre Command spokesman Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili said on Tuesday that the clash in the Galwan Valley had led to casualties on both sides, but so far China has not revealed the number of any dead or wounded.
The Foreign Ministers of the two countries held a telephone conversation on Wednesday in an effort to reduce tensions following the killing of the Indian soldiers.
( With inputs from Vijaita Singh )