After weeks of escalation between India and China in the Galwan Valley in Kashmir, at least 20 Indian soldiers have been killed by China in hand-to-hand combat. The number of casualties is high and it is likely that other Indian soldiers will succumb to their wounds. In the sub-zero temperatures gunfire was not used and the fighting was with fists, stones and nailed bamboo poles. The Indian soldiers were beaten to death or pushed into water by Chinese soldiers.
There has been no report yet of any soldiers killed on the Chinese side. A senior Inidan Military official told the BBC “They hit our boys on the head with metal batons wrapped in barbed wire. Our boys fought with bare hands”
Additional to the clashes in the Galwan Valley, in the eastern Ladhak border region of Kashmir, China took over 60 square miles of Indian-occupied territory of Kashmir. It has been reported that the Indian soldiers didn’t put up a fight and left hurriedly when China invaded the region. In May, in another Kashmir border region, Sikkim, Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows.
Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi questioned Indian Prime Minister’s silence in the face of Chinese aggression. He asked “Why is the Prime Minister silent? Why is he hiding?” and went on to say “Enough is enough. We need to know what has happened”
Modi then gave a statement saying “The country will be proud that our soldiers died fighting the Chinese” and said he wanted to “assure the nation” that the soldiers loss of life was “not to be in vain”.
India has been battling live border disputes with Pakistan, Nepal and China. The Indian media response to clashes with Chinese soldiers was comparatively moderate to when border issues arise with Pakistan. The right wing extremist RSS, who have been known give fiery messages for any stand off against Pakistan, have been relatively silent. This is despite China fighting over the same Kashmir, albeit a different region, to which Pakistan has fought over.
Indians came to the streets in protest and burnt Chinese flags and voiced their frustration with the defeated response of the Indian government and military.
India’s problems started months prior, when the economy took a downturn which was then followed the Coronavirus Covid-19 lockdown which made existing economical problems worse.
On China’s Military Defence website Zhang Shuili, the spokesman of the Western Theater said “The sovereignty of the Galwan Valley region has always belonged to China,”
The tensions have been growing for months and videos have emerged in the last few weeks showing Chinese Military shouting at overwhelmed Indian soldiers and in other footage the Chinese Military had humiliated the Indian soldiers by tying them up.
Indian Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah upped the rhetoric as he said “Some used to say that US and Israel were the only countries which were willing and capable of avenging every drop of the blood of their soldiers” and that “any intrusion into the the borders of India will be punished”.
The reality of what has occurred in the last few weeks between India and China paints a very different picture to what Amit Shah has said. India’s actions show India has no desire for any military stand of with China and as such has forfeit the fight when it came. This could be due to fear of Chinese Military might or due to a failing Indian economy.
In 1962 the two countries fought a war when India suffered a humiliating defeat. It is 45 years since the last clash between India and China. In 1975 China killed 4 Indian soldiers.
In 1996 the two countries agreed “neither side shall open fire…conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres of the Line of Actual Control”. It appears the 1996 agreement didn’t cover hand-to-hand combat which occurred on Monday between the two armies. India has pleaded China for deescalation.