Ladakh face-off | Freezing cold, tough terrain added to death toll

On the march: Army trucks moving along a highway towards Ladakh, at Gagangeer in Kashmir's Ganderbal district on Wednesday. Some soldiers are believed to have been taken into custody by Chinese troops.  

Two days after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in clashes with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh, the situation remains calm but tense. The condition of four critically injured soldiers is stable and some soldiers are still unaccounted for.

In the light of the unprecedented incident, the Army has revised the rules of engagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), defence sources said. “Four personnel critically injured are now stable. In addition, 18 injured in Leh military hospital are also now stable,” sources said. Another 58 personnel with minor injuries should join work within a few days, they said.

Some soldiers are still unaccounted for and, according to reports, are believed to have been taken into custody by Chinese troops.

A round of Major General-level talks held on the ground in Galwan ended in a stalemate, sources said.

The earlier rules of engagement were no pointing of weapons, no encircling and no blocking, among others. They were in tune with the 1996 agreement between the two countries, which imposes limits on the employment of force, military equipment including aircraft and troop build-up close to the LAC. “Earlier confidence-building measures precluded offensive overtures. Now it has been conveyed that no more defensive body language,” sources said. “We always followed them but they [the Chinese] swayed.”

Also read: Ladakh face-off | India, China agree to de-escalate

Commenting on the ground situation, sources said, “India is prepared to resolve the situation through discussions and there can be no compromise on India’s territorial integrity.”

The clash occurred as both sides were “de-escalating” from the Galwan area as per the consensus reached to defuse the tension that began in early May. On Tuesday, the Army initially declared three fatalities, but by late evening the death toll went up to 20 as several died of extreme temperature conditions.

Also read: Analysis | With China, India will have to be 'atmanirbhar'

The two sides have since disengaged from the area, the Army had stated.

Details emerging

According to details emerging of the events that led to the clash, Col. B. Santosh Babu, Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar, and a small group of unarmed soldiers were overseeing the pull-back of Chinese troops, as agreed earlier, when they were attacked by Chinese troops armed with rods and stones.

As Col. Babu and the two soldiers were attacked, the other soldiers joined in, but were vastly outnumbered, and the scuffle continued. Some soldiers are believed to have been swept away in the Galwan river, a reason for their exposure to sub-zero temperatures as mentioned by the Army.

“Rescue at that altitude and during that time is extremely challenging,” the sources said.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 3:57:06 AM |

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