Galwan Valley: India and China downplay reports of soldier release
A cremation ceremony for one of the killed Indian soldiers took place on Thursday
China has denied currently having Indian soldiers in custody as both sides attempt to lower the temperature after a fatal clash along their controversial border in the Galwan Valley.
Indian media had reported that China arrested 10 Indian soldiers in combat and released them on Thursday.
Chinese government spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that "currently" no Indian soldiers are being held.
The Indian government only said that none of its soldiers were missing.
The careful wording of the declarations has done little to clarify whether the Chinese armed forces in the disputed area detained and subsequently released Indian soldiers.
Indian media reports indicated that a lieutenant colonel and three majors under ten were detained by the Chinese and that their release was a top priority in military and diplomatic talks between the nuclear powers on Wednesday.
When asked about the reports at a press conference, Mr. Zhao said, "As far as I know, China has not currently arrested any Indian personnel."
The conflicting reports were the last round of confusion about what exactly happened in the Galwan Valley on Monday.
At least 20 Indian soldiers died in the clash, which was carried out without firearms under a 1996 agreement to ban weapons and explosives from the region. At least 76 Indian soldiers were injured.
China has not released any information about victims, although India said that both sides have suffered losses.
The two nations have accused the other of crossing the poorly demarcated border and provoking the struggle.
Shiv Aroor, a senior editor at India Today, tweeted Thursday for details on the release of Indian troops.
To those who ask (and since it has been reported) - my tweet should convey this in under 6 hours. And since the story will appear in tomorrow's newspapers, you can get started if you're interested in hearing from me:
us / 1273602788832849920
us / 1273576147079491586
10:51 PM - June 18, 2020
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At his press conference, Mr. Zhao confirmed that the two nations are communicating through diplomatic and military channels. "We hope that India can work with China to maintain the long-term development of bilateral relations," he said.
But it is "very clear and the responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side," he added.
The conflicting reports of detained soldiers came after a picture surfaced on Thursday that allegedly shows some of the raw weapons used in the fight.
The photo, which shows nailed iron bars, was given to the BBC by a senior Indian military official on the Indian-Chinese border, who said the weapons were used by the Chinese.
An image released by an Indian military official to the BBC shows raw weapons that were said to have been used in combat
Defense analyst Ajai Shukla, who first tweeted the picture, described the use of such weapons as "barbarism." The lack of firearms in the collision stems from an agreement between the two sides in 1996 to ban weapons and explosives along the controversial border section to prevent escalation.
The image was widely distributed on Twitter in India, causing outrage among many social media users. Neither Chinese nor Indian officials have commented on this.
According to media reports, troops collided on ridges almost 14,000 ft (4,300 m) high in steep terrain, with some soldiers falling into the fast-flowing Galwan River at freezing temperatures.
First death in four decades
The two sides have been arguing along the controversial border in recent weeks, but Monday's clash was the first to result in deaths for at least 45 years. According to unconfirmed reports in the Indian media, at least 40 Chinese soldiers have died, but China has yet to release information about the victims.
China claimed "sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region" on Wednesday - a claim that India refuted as "exaggerated and unsustainable."
Indian army trucks drive to Ladakh on a highway on Wednesday
In both countries, members of the public have since held protests against the clashes in the contested Himalayan border area, while officials have spoken cautiously and turned to a diplomatic solution.
The Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Anurag Srivastava, said the foreign ministers of both countries had a telephone conversation on Wednesday about the developments and "agreed that the overall situation should be handled responsibly".
"Making exaggerated and unsustainable claims contradicts this understanding," Srivastava was quoted by the Press Trust of India news agency.
A statement by the Indian government after Subrahmanyam Jaishankar's conversation with Wang Yi from China said that the Chinese armed forces had attempted to establish a structure on the Indian side of the de facto border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The statement accused the Chinese of "deliberate and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and loss," and urged China to "take corrective action."
In a Chinese statement, Mr. Wang was quoted as saying: "China is again expressing strong protest against India and is asking the Indian side to launch a thorough investigation ... and to stop all provocative measures to ensure that the same things are not yet happen once. "
Why weren't there weapons?
The Galwan River Valley in Ladakh, with its harsh climate and high-altitude terrain, is near Aksai Chin, a controversial area claimed by India but controlled by China.
This is not the first time that the two nuclear-armed neighbors are fighting at the border without conventional firearms. India and China have a history of encounters and overlapping territorial claims along the more than 3,440 km long, poorly drawn LAC that separates the two sides.
The last fire on the border occurred in 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed in a remote passport in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Former diplomats described the clash differently as an ambush and an accident. But no bullets have been fired since.
The basis for this is a bilateral agreement from 1996, which states that "neither side may open fire ... carry out explosion operations or chase with weapons or explosives within two kilometers of the line of actual control".
However, there have been other tense confrontations along the border in recent weeks. In May, Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows on the border to Lake Pangong, also in Ladakh, and in the northeastern state of Sikkim, hundreds of miles to the east.
India has accused China of sending thousands of troops to Ladakh's Galwan Valley, and says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers of its territory. Border disputes have not been resolved in several rounds of talks in the past three decades.
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