Earlier in the day we reported that Indian Army officials said that three troops – an officer and two soldiers, to be more precise – had been gunned down by Chinese forces during a “violent faceoff” in Galwan Valley in the Ladakh region Monday night.
In an official follow-up statement, the Indian Army now says as of Tuesday evening local time that an additional seventeen soldiers were critically injured in the exchange of fire, and since succumbed to their wounds after being “exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain.” This brings the official Indian death toll to 20 soldiers killed.
With the whole incident still shrouded in contradictory claims and lack of confirmation on potential Chinese casualties from Beijing – even after widespread unverified Indian media reports claimed that up to 43 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were killed or injured in the clashes, one thing is for sure — that this is the biggest and deadliest border clash between the nuclear-armed neighbors in a half-century.
The only thing approaching an ‘official’ statement from Beijing appears to come via state media. The highly visible editor of state-run Global Times Hu Xijin, who’s often served as unofficial mouthpiece conveying Beijing official sentiment to the West tweeted the following in the aftermath Tuesday, calling it “goodwill from Beijing”:
The 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.
Importantly, Xijin confirmed that there were indeed casualties on the Chinese side.
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
He stated further: “Based on what I know, Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash,” in a follow-up tweet.
“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,” the GT editor added.
And BBC reports of the new statements:
It added that “17 Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty” and died from their injuries, taking the “total that were killed in action to 20”.
China did not confirm any casualties, but accused India in turn of crossing the border onto the Chinese side.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said India had crossed the border twice on Monday, “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides”, AFP news agency reported.
India blamed Beijing for “an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo” on the border, according to Indian media.
With tensions this high, and no doubt the national medias of each country about to spend days whipping their citizens into a frenzy, there’s likely more to come along the restive and disputed Line of Control (LOC).
We should add that strangely, the Indian army is still claiming as of Tuesday that “no shots were fired” in this latest major clash.
This is of course a not so insignificant detail which has left many observers scratching their heads, but then again, border skirmishes between the two have been known to involve stones, sticks, and fist-fights. Given the high casualty count, gunfire is most likely, or perhaps they fought with bayonets?