A clash between Indian and Chinese troops on the intervening night of June 15 and 16 at Galwan in eastern Ladakh last year has set a new template for military readiness along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

No Breakthrough

India-China talks to disengage in eastern Ladakh broke down on April 9
Both sides have jets, artillery guns, missiles, UAVs lined up on either side
The Galwan clash nullified all LAC peace pacts signed since 1993

All agreements stitched for maintaining peace along the LAC since 1993 now stand breached. The two nuclear-armed acrimonious neighbours maintain a deployment of armed troops within cannon-shot range of each other and talks to disengage and de-escalate broke down on April 9.

The matters don’t look to get sorted out in the next few months, in an assessment within the Indian security establishment.

India has made it clear that pulling back troops from friction points along the LAC could be done only after the Chinese army “disengaged” from areas like Gogra, Hot Springs and the Depsang plains. So far, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has been inflexible to this suggestion. As of now, the “disengagement” has happened only at one sector — Pangong Tso.

Both sides have fighter jets, armed helicopters, tanks, artillery guns, air defence missiles, UAVs and thousands of troops lined up on either side of the 823-km LAC in eastern Ladakh.

The clash at Galwan was the first fatal event since 1975 when a team of Assam Rifles was ambushed by the PLA in Arunachal Pradesh. Before that, a fully armed class had ensued in 1967 at Nathu La in Sikkim.

At Galwan, 20 Indian Army soldiers, including an officer, were killed in action. More than 900 troops on each side were involved in a physical clash, which started on the night of June 15 last year. It lasted several hours — in three phases — and ended in the early hours of June 16. Most of the deaths occurred as soldiers fell off the cliffs into a narrow valley and the Galwan river at an altitude of 15,000 ft. Some died due to hypothermia and others due to injuries.

Stones, steel poles and bamboo poles with nails embed on them were used by the Chinese to attack the Indian troops. The PLA also suffered fatal casualties even as no bullets were fired in the clash. The casualties would have been manifold had bullets been fired.

The incident had occurred after a round of talks to withdraw from the stand-off. The PLA had build a fresh post and set up arctic tents at vantage position on the south bank of the Galwan river. The post gave the Chinese better position to target the vital 255-km Darbuk Shayok Daulat Baig Oldie (DSDBO), India’s only link to Depsang, Murgo and Karakoram Pass.

The post, some 5 km from the DSDBO road, has been removed but the movement backwards has only been by a couple of km.