Chinese delayed handing over of more than 50 wounded Indian troops after the fierce Galwan clash. Here is an exclusive account with inside details of how 10 Indian Army men were held by the Chinese for three days.
New Delhi, June 25:
In the dead of the night on June 15, after a fierce clash to hold on to territory in Ladakh, soldiers from the Indian and Chinese armies found themselves freely walking into each other’s claimed land to look for their wounded colleagues.
Both sides desperately tried to identify their soldiers in the darkness. By the next morning, Indians had handed over close to a dozen Chinese troops to China.
According to some accounts, an injured Colonel, who was in Indian custody, was among those returned by India to the Chinese without any delay.
The Chinese, however, kept delaying sending back Indian soldiers.
It took the Chinese close to 24 hours to send back over 50 Indian soldiers who were on the other side of the LAC after they were wounded in violent clashes in Galwan Valley.
“Some had minor injuries…some were seriously wounded,” an Army source told India Today. However, not all the men were handed over to India by the Chinese army.
Ten Army soldiers, including four officers, were not returned to India by the Chinese, sources privy to the details said.
HECTIC NEGOTIATIONS BEGIN
Over the next three days, hectic negotiations were held between Indian and China to ensure that the 10 Indian Army personnel, including four officers, return safely.
“The Chinese army never denied having them. They accepted that they have our men, always assuring they are safe but kept delaying handing them over,” said a source.
Sources said there was never any resistance to release the 10 men from the Chinese side but they found a way out to keep the Indians waiting.
“They cited procedures, asked for some more time to keep things hanging on one or the other pretext,” said a source.
Some in the security establishment believe this was nothing but “mind games” that the Chinese were playing.
There were Maj General-level talks between the two armies on June 16, 17 and 18 where the focus was to get back the Indians.
10 INDIAN ARMY SOLDIERS RELEASED AFTER 3 DAYS
Finally, the 10 Indian Army soldiers were set free on June 18.
Notably, neither India nor China officially clarified if the 10 Indian Army soldiers were kept in PLA’s custody.
On June 18, the day the 10 soldiers were released, the Indian Army said none of the soldiers were missing in action and all had been “accounted for”.
With the release of 10 Indian Army personnel who were in captivity of the Chinese army for three days, the dialogue between the two countries got back on track to discuss further disengagement at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
On June 22, there was a Corps Commander-level meeting where mutual disengagement was discussed.
THE BLOODY CLASH IN GLAWAN: SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
The bloody clash at Patrol Point (PP 14) in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh was triggered after the Indian Army objected to an observation post set up by the Chinese.
What followed was hours of brutal clashes.
The Chinese, armed with iron studded rods, clubs and stones, unleashed a wild melee attack. Indian troops of the 16 Bihar regiment resisted the ferocious assault but lost their commanding officer Col Santosh B Santosh Babu.
In all, 20 Indians were killed in action. Some accounts from the ground say there were several deaths on the Chinese side, but China is yet to give an official number.
There was pressure on troops on both sides with hostilities rising since May 5. It exploded on June 15, said an official.
As the 16 Bihar troops came under attack, reinforcements were rushed in. This included artillery troops and also infantry men from the 3rd battalion of the Punjab regiment.
The artillery men, handling sophisticated big guns, would never have imagined that they would end up being involved in a medieval like hand to hand clash with the Chinese.
Not only did the gunners usually needed for firing the big booming guns to hit the enemy deep inside, fought bravely with their hands but were also instrumental in picking up a Chinese colonel as they rushed as reinforcements with their infantry brethren from Punjab regiment to help the 16 Bihar that was already outnumbered by the Chinese.
The spirit and valour of these men will be legendary in years to come, many say.
FOCUS BACK ON POINT OF CLASH
The focus is back on PP 14 as the Chinese army has set up a tent again at the point of the clash. India Today was the first to report how thousands of troops separate each other close to PP 14 even as top military commanders met on June 22.
There is a massive build up on either side once again bringing the situation back to where it started.
Not just Galwan, the Pangong Lake remains another flashpoint. Sources say if Pangong Lake and Galwan PP 14 can be resolved, things will cool down. Meanwhile, the Chinese are opening other sectors of eastern Ladakh making forays up north at Daulat Beg Oldie and the Depsang plains.