Eight months after a brutal clash in the Galwan River valley in Ladakh, in which Chinese troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) killed 20 Indian soldiers and took another 10 prisoner, China has acknowledged officially that the PLA suffered serious casualties as well.
Soon after that June 15 incident, anonymous Indian government sources had claimed that close to 40 PLA soldiers had been killed. Last week, Russian news agency TASS reported that 45 Chinese soldiers had died in that clash. Beijing, however, had remained silent.
On Friday, an article in the PLA Daily, and a post in the PLA’s WeChat account, for the first time revealed official Chinese casualty figures in that incident. The article stated that Qi Fabao, a PLA regimental commander (the equivalent of an Indian brigadier), was seriously injured and four others, including a battalion commander, were killed.
The PLA Daily revealed this in an article titled “Heroes stand in Karakorum”, written by three staff reporters, Ren Xu, Guo Fengkuan and Li Lei. Their account, penned in the florid, ideological prose of revolutionary regimes, took up the first two pages of the PLA Daily.
The Central Military Commission awarded Qi Fabao the honorary title of ‘The Hero of Defending the Borderland’, and posthumously awarded the honorary title of ‘The Hero of Defending the Borderland’ to Chen Hongjun, giving Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran the first-class merits.
Providing the PLA’s rationale for the intrusions, the article states: “Since April 2020, the relevant foreign troops (the article nowhere mentions they were Indian) had seriously violated the agreement between the two countries by building roads, bridges and other facilities in the Kalwan (Galwan) Valley area to reach the border, deliberately provoking incidents, trying to unilaterally change the status quo of border control and even violently attacking China. (PLA) officers and soldiers (were) going to negotiate on the spot.”
On the June 15 clash, the PLA Daily said: “In June 2020, foreign troops blatantly violated the consensus reached with us and crossed the line to set up tents… [Our regimental commander], Qi Fabao, in the sincerity of negotiating to solve the problem, brought only a few officers and soldiers to the waist-deep river for negotiations.”
“During the negotiation process, the [Indians] ignored our sincerity and premeditatedly hid and mobilized a large number of troops in an attempt to force us to back down by virtue of the large number of people,” it recounts.
When the Indian soldiers “emerged from behind the cliffs… The [Chinese] officers and soldiers formed a battle formation to confront foreign troops several times their own.” Qi Fabao was attacked with steel pipes, clubs and stones and “suffered heavy head injuries”.
“[The PLA’s] reinforcement teams arrived in time and the offenders were defeated and driven away in one fell swoop, and a major victory was achieved. The foreign troops were defeated… and paid a heavy price,” said the PLA Daily.
In New Delhi’s version of events, PLA troops treacherously ambushed a patrol, led by Colonel B Santosh Babu, which had gone to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to verify if PLA troops had withdrawn, as decided in military-to-military talks between local commanders from both sides. Attacked from all sides, the greatly outnumbered Indian patrol fought bravely but paid a heavy price. Colonel Babu was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra — the second-highest wartime gallantry award.
The PLA Daily also recounts the difficult conditions on the LAC, where soldiers from both sides have spent the entire freezing winter in combat deployment.
“Nowadays, at the outpost in the Kalwan River Valley, (PLA) officers and soldiers are always on high alert and firmly guard the estuary; in the windy and snowy training field, officers and soldiers are intensively training in new combat vehicles, ready to face the enemy with swords; in the new thermal insulation barracks, the officers and soldiers were fully loaded with sufficient supplies for fighting and living, and they were ready for a long-term struggle.”