Parrying questions about the brutal attack carried out by its troops on the Indian soldiers with iron rods and spikes on June 15, China on Thursday also declined to respond to queries on reports of it building a dam on the Galwan river at the Sino-Indian border to obstruct its flow.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in his media briefing skirted questions for a second consecutive day about the casualties suffered by the Chinese troops in their clash with the Indian soldiers at the Galwan Valley on Monday night.
Asked about allegations that Col Santosh Babu and other Indian soldiers were brutally attacked with iron rods and spikes by Chinese soldiers and whether the confrontation started when the Indian troops arrive to demolish structures set up by China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Zhao reiterated China’s allegation, squarely blaming the Indian troops for the incident.
“The right and wrong of this case is very clear and responsibility doesn’t lie with the Chinese side,” he said, adding that China has provided the details of the case.
India has trashed China’s claim of sovereignty over the Galwan Valley, saying such “exaggerated” and “untenable” claims are contrary to the understanding reached during a high-level military dialogue on June 6.
China’s foreign ministry as well as the military this week claimed that the Galwan Valley has always been a part of the country.
In a sharp reaction to the claim by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava referred to an agreement reached between the Chinese and Indian militaries on “disengagement” during the Lt General-level talks on June 6.
“Making exaggerated and untenable claims is contrary to this understanding,” he said in a statement in New Delhi early on Thursday.
The Galwan Valley was the site of the violent clash between the two militaries on Monday night in which a Colonel and 19 other Indian Army personnel were killed. China’s official media has acknowledged casualties on the Chinese side without mentioning numbers.
To a question about satellite photos taken on June 16 showing China building a dam on the Galwan river blocking its water flow and whether it violated any agreement with India, Zhao said, “I am not aware of the specifics you mentioned”.
During Thursday’s press briefing, Zhao referred to Wednesday’s telephone talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during which, he pointed out that, “both sides agreed to deal with the serious situation caused by the conflict in a just manner and jointly observe the consensus reached at the commander level meeting, de-escalate tensions as soon as possible”.
The two ministers have also agreed based on the agreements reached by the two countries reached so far to maintain the peace and tranquillity in the border areas, he said.
“I would like to stress the Indian troops at the western section of the boundary and some other areas crossed LAC and tried to unilaterally change the status quo,” he alleged.
“The Chinese troops are committed to uphold peace and tranquillity along the border areas. They have been exercising restraint. They are determined to safeguard our national sovereignty and security”, he said.
“We urge the Indian side to immediately withdraw their personnel crossing the line, strictly restrain its troops and observe consensus reached by the leaders of two countries and agreements existing so far and jointly work with us to uphold peace tranquillity in the border area,” he said.
After this incident, both sides are in communication and coordination on the matter through diplomatic and military channels, he said.
“Both sides agreed to deal with the serious matter caused by the conflict at the valley in a just manner, jointly observe the commander level talks consensus and deescalate the tensions as soon as possible and safeguard the peace and tranquillity,” he said.
“Currently the overall situation is stable and controllable. We believe under the guidance of the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries the two sides can deal with the relevant matter jointly safeguard peace and stability at the border areas and work for the sound development of bilateral relations”, he said.
During the briefing, the spokesman read out the whole press statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday on the telephonic conversation between Wang and Jaishankar.
A large number of Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Galwan Valley and certain other areas of eastern Ladakh for the last five weeks, including in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh.
Monday’s face-off was the biggest confrontation between the two militaries after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La when India lost around 80 soldiers while over 300 Chinese army personnel were killed in the face-off.
The Indian Army has been fiercely objecting to the transgressions, and demanded their immediate withdrawal for restoration of peace and tranquillity in the area. Both sides held a series of talks in the last few days to resolve the row.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC). China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.