Report: Border Brawl Led to Chinese Casualties Despite Indians Being ‘Badly Outnumbered’

India and China have an understanding that their troops in the disputed and inhospitable border region will not use firearms
AFP Tauseef MUSTAFA

The Chinese army likely suffered “more than twice” the casualties of the Indian army in a recent Himalayan border clash, including a Chinese commanding officer, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday, citing sources within the Indian military.

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the fighting on June 15, including an Indian commanding officer. The official number of Chinese dead has remained unconfirmed by Beijing, but Indian media reports state that roughly 40 Chinese troops died in the border skirmish in Galwan Valley, located in the northeastern Indian state of Ladakh. Now, Indian military sources seem to corroborate this estimate by saying that China sustained over two times the number of casualties as the Indian side. The sources have also provided new details of the overnight attack, including the revelation that one of the Chinese killed was a commanding officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“The Chinese army possibly suffered more than twice the casualties [of the Indian side],” retired four-star Indian Army General V.K. Singh allegedly said over the weekend, according to the newspaper.

The death of the Chinese commander was confirmed to the Indian side “through diplomatic and military channels last week,” an unnamed military source allegedly told the publication on Monday. “The Chinese commanding officer’s body was among the bodies exchanged by the two sides” after the fighting ceased on June 16, the source allegedly said.

The skirmish was brutally fought hand-to-hand, owing to a traditional agreement between the two sides to refrain from opening fire along the border. Indian media reports last week said that the Chinese used improvised weapons  – including rocks, metal rods, and batons wrapped in barbed wire and studded with nails  – to strike and kill Indian soldiers. Indian Colonel Santosh Babu “was pushed from [a] narrow ridge and fell to his death in the gorge below,” the Guardian reported, with many more soldiers either falling or being pushed to their death.

New details of the attack, reportedly gleaned from debriefings of Indian soldiers involved in the combat, emerged on Monday and were shared by the Hindustan Times. According to the report, the confrontation involved “600 soldiers from both sides,” with the Indians “badly outnumbered.” The overnight fighting was staggered into three separate encounters between the two sides, spread across seven hours. Both the Indian and Chinese commanding officers were killed in the second bout of fighting, described as the fiercest round.

“The moment the Indian soldiers realized that their commanding officer, Colonel Santosh Babu, had fallen they fought against the Chinese soldiers with all their might and killed 16 of them and inflicted life-threatening injuries on scores of others in a fearsome counter-attack,” the newspaper wrote.

The Times reports that the Chinese attack on Indian troops was “premeditated,” citing the PLA’s alleged deployment of a new troop unit to the border immediately prior to the clash. “Chinese troops … had been pulled out of another [military] sector and freshly deployed on the disputed border to carry out the premeditated attack,” the report said.

According to the newspaper, last week the Indian government clarified that Indian soldiers stationed along the Himalayan border do carry weapons and ammunition. However, the Indian soldiers on June 15 “did not open fire as they were following border agreements between the two countries,” the government explained.

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