The Indian soldiers killed in a “violent face-off” with Chinese soldiers late Monday night at Ladakh’s Galwan Valley have been identified as Colonel B Santosh Babu, who was from Suryapet in Telangana, Havildar Palani from Tamil Nadu and Sepoy Ojha from Jharkhand.
Army sources told NDTV they were not shot but died during a physical confrontation, involving stones and batons, with Chinese troops who had entered Indian territory.
“There was no firing. No firearms were used. It was violent hand-to-hand scuffles,” an unnamed officer was quoted by news agency AFP (Agence France Presse) as saying.
The clash took place just as Chinese troops were getting ready to move away in line with an agreement between the two sides. The colonel was reportedly assaulted with stones and Indian soldiers retaliated, which led to close-quarters unarmed combat.
The soldiers disengaged only after midnight.
India responded Tuesday night, saying both sides had suffered casualties “that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side”.
The government also said it was firmly convinced of the need for peace and tranquillity in border areas but was “strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”
These are the first fatalities involving the two militaries since 1975, when four Assam Rifles patrol party soldiers were ambushed and killed on the Indian side of Arunachal Pradesh’s Tulung La Pass.
The face-off took place high in the snow desert of Ladakh, marking a worrying escalation in tensions that have been simmering for over six weeks now – since Indian and Chinese soldiers skirmished in the Pangong Lake region of the union territory on May 5 and 6.
An Army statement said senior military officials from both sides were meeting to defuse the situation; talks between the two sides had been going on prior to Monday night’s violence and a “lot of disengagement” had taken place, according to Army chief General MM Naravane..
China, in an aggressive statement after the incident, had accused India of crossing the border and “attacking Chinese personnel”, news agency AFP reported.
With input from AFP