India on Wednesday responded sharply to the Chinese foreign ministry claiming Galwan Valley, asserting that this was an “exaggerated and untenable” claim. New Delhi also reminded Beijing about the phone conversation between the foreign ministers of the two countries who had agreed that the overall situation “should be handled in a responsible manner” and the understanding reached between military commanders of the two countries on 6 June “should be implemented sincerely”.
“Making exaggerated and untenable claims is contrary to this understanding,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivatava said in his rebuttal released around midnight.
The Galwan Valley – the site of the bloody clash between soldiers from both sides – has been one of the few areas along the Line of Actual Control where the difference in perception of the boundary between the two sides was minimal. In New Delhi, the Chinese statement is seen as an effort to create fresh areas of differences even as older differences turn into disputes.
Colonel Zhang Shuili, a spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theater Command, was the first to claim Galwan Valley within hours of the Indian army confirming that soldiers of the two armies had clashed in Galwan Valley. Like the foreign ministry’s first response, the army officer had accused Indian soldiers of crossing the line but he significantly, also insisted that “China always owns sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region”.
At its daily briefing, the Chinese foreign ministry had read out the PLA officer’s statement that claimed the Galwan Valley region belongs to China.
The Chinese foreign ministry readout of the conversation between India’s S Jaishankar and his counterpart Wang Yi, however, did not make this point.It is understood that New Delhi’s late night statement was designed to set the record straight since the foreign ministry had vetted the PLA’s version.
The two countries have been trading charges of what triggered Monday night’s face-off in Galwan Valley that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and 76 more wounded including 18 with serious injuries. Indian Army officials claimed 43 Chinese were killed or seriously injured, citing radio intercepts and other intelligence. Fatal casualties on the Chinese side reportedly include a colonel but HT couldn’t independently verify this.
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar told his counterpart in a phone conversation that the Chinese side’s “pre-meditated and planned action” was behind the violence and casualties. Jaishankar also added that the “Chinese side sought to erect a structure in Galwan Valley on our side of the LAC” and set up the clash.Wang, according to the Chinese foreign ministry, said the “Indian side must not misjudge the current situation and must not underestimate China’s firm determination to safeguard our territorial sovereignty”. Wang reiterated China’s accusations that Indian troops had triggered the clash on June 15 by crossing the LAC, and said India must investigate its troops for the action. The Chinese foreign ministry readout of the phone conversation did not, however, lay claim to Galwan Valley.