Galwan Valley clash: China amassing troops at LAC since May, says MEA

Twenty Army personnel, including a Colonel, were killed during a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley of the eastern Ladakh region on June 15. Photo: PTI
In its most strident comments on the recent border clashes with China, India on Thursday blamed Beijing for “amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” since early May.

It said this has led India to take counter measures, which increased the tension in border areas. It warned China that a continuation of the situation would only vitiate the atmosphere for the development of the relationship. New Delhi accused Beijing of repeatedly flouting laid-down agreements and norms on handling border tensions.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in an online media briefing, said the Chinese amassing of troops and armaments along the LAC was at the heart of the recent face-offs between the ground troops of the two sides. The MEA said the Chinese actions led to the increase in tension in the region and also led to the violent face-off of June 15. As many as 20 Indian soldiers, including a commanding officer, were killed and 76 injured. China has admitted to casualties, but is yet to disclose numbers. 

The MEA said the Chinese side hindered India’s normal, traditional patrolling pattern in the Galwan Valley area from early May. 

While the resulting face-off was addressed by the ground commanders, according to the provisions of the bilateral agreements, the Chinese side sought to change the status quo in other areas of the western sector in mid-May. 

Subsequently, senior commanders of both sides met on June 6 and agreed on a process for de-escalation along the LAC that involved reciprocal actions. The two sides agreed to respect and abide by the LAC and not undertake any activity to alter the status quo.

However, the Chinese side departed from these understanding in respect of the LAC in the Galwan Valley and sought to erect structures across the LAC, the MEA said. It said Chinese troops took violent actions on June 15 when their attempt to alter the LAC was foiled by Indian troops. “Thereafter, both sides remain deployed in large numbers in the region, while military and diplomatic contacts continued,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the Chinese amassing troops and armaments on the LAC violates the provisions of the 1993 agreement on the maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the LAC.

It said that over many years, both sides have developed patterns of patrolling and it is reasonable expectation that patrols will not be obstructed in the discharge of their legitimate duties. “Unfortunately, we have experienced in the last many years obstruction to patrolling that often accompany efforts to unilaterally change the status quo,” the MEA said.

“While there have been occasional departures in the past, the conduct of Chinese forces this year has been in complete disregard of all mutually agreed norms,” the MEA said.

India-China held a meeting of their ‘working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs’ on Wednesday. On June 22, they held a discussion among senior military commanders that focused on implementation of the understandings reached between them on June 6.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had a telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on June 17. The two had agreed that the overall situation would be handled in a responsible manner, and that the disengagement understanding of June 6 would be implemented.

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