Several speculations were being made over the recent clash between Indian and Chinese troops on June 15 in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley at Patrol Point 14. Following the Army press briefings and conversations with Army personnel in the Valley, the things have become more clear and for a better explanation, it is broken down in 3 phases.
Complete Coverage: India And China Encircling Each Other
Crux of the Matter
Ten days prior to the clash, lieutenant general-level talks were held in which it was proven that a Chinese observation post was on the Indian side of LAC along the Galwan River. It was decided to create a de facto ‘buffer zone’ and the Chinese dismantled the post following the disengagement at Patrol Point 14 where both armies had mobilised very close to the LAC.
The process decided during the previous meeting for disengagement had started from Galwan Valley. It was to be implemented after meetings between the commanders on the ground. During the implementation process, both sides clashed over the existence of a Chinese Observation Post in the ‘buffer zone’.
The 16 Bihar infantry battalion was deployed in the valley with its commanding Officer Colonel B Santosh Babu who even held talks with his Chinese counterpart a day after the Chinese dismantled the camp. On June 14, the camp unexpectedly re-emerged overnight and on June 15 Colonel Babu decided to personally lead a team wondering whether there has been a mistake.
The battalion was friendly and familiar with the Chinese officers due to regular meetings but when Colonel Babu along with 35 men reached they noticed fresh faces who were deployed for the first time there. The new unit was very aggressive and upon questioning, a Chinese soldier pushed the Colonel backward thereby raising the heat and temper.
Seeing the Commanding Officer being disrespected and assaulted the Indian team pounced on the Chinese leading to a proper fist-fight lasting for around 30 minutes with injuries on both sides. The Indian team prevailed and also burned the Chinese post to ashes. Colonel Babu asked the injured men to return back and asked for backup. This incident raised suspicions in his mind about more movements on the Chinese side.
Colonel Babu’s suspicions were correct and more troops were waiting in positions and as soon as they arrived, large stones began to land. Around 9 PM (on June 15) Colonel Babu was hit by a large stone on his head and he fell into the Galwan River. This led to the second brawl of fighting with the use of metal spiked clubs by the Chinese lasting for nearly 45 minutes until both sides disengaged.
The bodies of Colonel Babu and other jawans were carried back to the Indian side, while the rest of the Indian team remained on the Chinese side taking stock of the situation. And when things were at an emotional peak the Indian side heard the noise of quadcopter drone which became an immediate trigger for the third brawl.
The Indian backup comprising of Ghatak platoons who lead attacks and function as ‘shock troops’ from both the 16 Bihar as well as 3 Punjab Regiment arrived in large numbers. As suspected, the Chinese side also called a backup and the Indian team had to step deeper into the Chinese side to ensure they didn’t let large numbers of Chinese troops get close to the LAC.
The drone was moving through the valley, possibly using night vision or infrared cameras to map the damage and the third phase began around 11 PM. Troops continued fighting along the ridgelines and the intensity of the fight led to men on both sides fall into the narrow Galwan river having a sub-zero temperature.
After 5 hours of fighting, Indian and Chinese combat medics arrived to move their dead and injured and the remains of soldiers were exchanged. The physical separation of the fighting groups led to 10 Indian men comprising of 2 Majors, 2 Captains, and 6 Jawans being held back the Chinese side even after the disengagement.
Indian army lost 20 of its brave soldiers and Chinese casualties were more than roughly double of ours. The chaos in the darkness led to several injured men from both sides remaining with the other and by dawn on June 16, the Indian troops withdrew back across the LAC. The Major Generals from both sides then ensured that their men were provided medical treatments.
The tactical debrief report records that the Chinese troops involved in the brawl were not the regular unit deployed involved in multiple rounds of talks previously. It is suspected that there is larger intent to capture Indian territories by using more aggressive, less situationally acclimatized troops to spearhead an aggressive action.
In order to reduce tensions along the LAC, XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and his Chinese counterpart are conducting talks in search of a breakthrough. Currently, the disengagement process has begun and the Patrol point 14 is at peace.
- A Ghatak Platoon, or Ghatak Commandos, is a reconnaissance platoon that is present in every infantry battalion in the Indian Army. Their name was given to them by Gen. Bipin Chandra Joshi. They act as shock troops and spearhead assaults ahead of the battalion.
- The Seventeen Point Agreement is the document by which the delegates of the 14th Dalai Lama, sovereign of the de facto state of Tibet, reached an agreement in 1951 with the Central People’s Government of the newly established the People’s Republic of China on affirming Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.
- Maryul of Ngari was a west Tibetan kingdom based in modern-day Ladakh and Tibet Autonomous Region. The Maryul kingdom was based in Shey and evolved into the modern Ladakh.