10 Indian soldiers who where captured by China’s PLA during the savage battle in Galwan Valley were finally released after an agreement was reached at the Major General-level talks on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Army too confirmed that there were no more Indian troops missing in action. Meanwhile, the Army told reporters that there were 76 soldiers who were injured during the clash and are recovering at various hospitals.
One day after the clash there were rumours that some Indian soldiers were kidnapped by the Chinese armymen. But neither the Indian Army nor the Centre gave any clarification regarding the matter.
However, on Thursday, The Hindu confirmed through their sources that 10 Indian soldiers were indeed captured by the PLA soldiers. It was also confirmed that those 10 soldiers were returned by China unharmed.
Will the release of Indian soldiers end the border standoff?
This is a diplomatic victory of some sort as this allows both parties to engage in further dialogue and deescalate the situation. However, there has been no headway in talks over the issue of Galwan Valley and the area between Finger 4 & 8 on the banks of Pangong Tso Lake. While India claims that both these areas were never in dispute and were always patrolled by Indian soldiers. On the other hand, China has asserted that Galwan Valley was & will always remain the territory of People’s Republic of China.
To break the deadlock, a fourth round of Major General level talks is scheduled at Patrolling Point-14 in the Galwan valley on Friday.
Since May this year, tensions have been rising between India and China. In February-March, intelligence agencies had warned the Modi government about increased movement of Chinese troops in the eastern sector of Ladakh, officials said. This was followed by multiple alerts but with more specific caution in April about China’s intention to cut off access to areas patrolled by Indian forces.
On May 5 Indian soldiers clashed with the PLA soldiers after finding the Chinese have placed tents and posts on the Indian side of the LAC.
On the night of 15 June, a deadlier clash between Indian & Chinese soldiers took place at a height of 15000 feet. When Indian soldiers tried to remove the tents erected by the PLA in the Galwan valley, hundreds of soldiers from China entered the valley and attacked the unarmed men with rocks, sticks and nail-studded rods. Many Indian soldiers were pushed from the cliff in to the freezing water of Galwan river.
Satellite images show even after the clash Chinese posts in the Indian side of the de-facto border are still intact. Both India and China have been deploying heavy artillery all along the LAC. Although a full fledged war between two nuclear powers is still unlikely, but the ground situation remains tense.
Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Chairperson Gyal P Wangyal revealed that several areas close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) including Changtang, Durbuk and Nyoma are completely cut off from communication. “I am unable to contact my counselors in these areas”, he says.
Locals have also complained that since the beginning of this year, Chinese soldiers have been regularly crossing over into Indian territory and harassing them. The nomads in the area who graze their cattle in the pasture lands near the border are being prevented from accessing those areas that are well within India.
However, after China’s decision to release the captured Indian soldiers, chances of a diplomatic resolution to the border standoff have increased. Both sides have been cautious with their statements in front of the media. Both governments have shown willingness to defuse tension and resolve the matter through dialogue.
In the fourth round of talks on Friday, India is expected to reiterate its demand for restoration of the status quo and dismantling of all structures constructed by the Chinese in the Galwan Valley and the finger area of Pangong Tso lake.