Galwan braves get a pat on the back from Rajnath Singh in Ladakh’s Lukung
In a clip, Defence minister Rajnath Singh is seen mingling with the soldiers who were introduced to him by 14 Corps commander Lieutenant General Harinder Singh who can be heard telling the minister that the commanding officer killed in the skirmish was from their unit
Defence minister Rajnath Singh met soldiers from the 16th battalion of the Bihar regiment who fought off numerically superior Chinese troops in the remote Galwan Valley on June 15, and acknowledged their bravery in the presence of the military’s top brass, people familiar with the developments said on Sunday.
Singh returned to Delhi on Saturday after a two-day tour of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir that covered visits to forward locations and also saw him interact with soldiers deployed there.
A new video from Lukung on the western bank on Ladakh’s Pangong Tso, which has been at the centre of the current border tensions with China, showed the minister having tea with soldiers from 16 Bihar. In the clip, the minister is seen mingling with the soldiers who were introduced to him by 14 Corps commander Lieutenant General Harinder Singh who can be heard telling the minister that the commanding officer killed in the skirmish was from their unit.
The infantry battalion’s 37-year-old commanding officer, Colonel B Santosh Babu, was among the 20 Indian soldiers killed in the seven-hour deadly conflict near Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan Valley, where outnumbered Indian troops inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Beijing has not disclosed the number of fatalities it suffered but according to India’s assessment the PLA suffered twice as many casualties.
Apart from 16 Bihar, soldiers from 3 Punjab, 3 Medium Regiment and 81 Field Regiment were involved in the first deadly conflict between Indian and Chinese troops along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in more than five decades.
Recalling the Galwan Valley skirmish in his speech, Singh said on Friday while he was delighted to meet the soldiers at Lukung, he was deeply pained by the loss of 20 Indian soldiers in the clash. Paying tributes to the brave-hearts, he said they not only protected India’s border but also the honour of 130 crore Indians and their sacrifice would not go in vain.
The first wave of fighting in Galwan Valley erupted around 6 pm on June 15 after Colonel Babu led a squad of 30 soldiers to a location near PP-14 to verify if the PLA had removed some structures erected in the area despite an understanding reached on June 6 by top Indian and Chinese military commanders on a disengagement plan to reduce rising border tensions.
The Indian soldiers confronted the Chinese troops, who refused to remove their installations and vacate the area, triggering a violent clash that involved more than 600 rival soldiers at its peak.
In Ladakh, Singh said that the progress in negotiations with China should help resolve the ongoing border dispute but he “couldn’t guarantee to what extent the situation will be resolved”, underlining that progress in resolving the tensions along the LAC between the two nuclear powers has been a challenging and arduous process.
Singh also said that no power could “touch or grab even an inch of Indian territory”. Lukung is 43 km from Finger 4 on the northern bank of Pangong lake.
India last week said the complex disengagement process with China on the LAC is specifically aimed at preventing “face-off situations”, and any unilateral attempts to change the status quo on the disputed border won’t be accepted. Two days after senior military commanders from both sides met at Chushul, the Indian Army on July 16 said complete disengagement is an “intricate process” requiring “constant verification”.