The Chinese military’s statement on the violent clash in eastern Ladakh has a claim that China has not made directly for decades – sovereignty over entire the Galwan valley.
The Indian Army has stated that 20 Indian soldiers were killed in action in a violent face-off with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan area on Monday night.
This marked a sharp escalation in tensions between the two countries, who had reportedly been in the midst of a process of disengagement from their stand-off that began six weeks ago.
Both the Chinese foreign ministry and army asserted that Indian troops had provoked the violence by crossing over to their territory, but the latter explicitly cited China’s claims.
“The sovereignty over the Galvan Valley area has always belonged to China,” said PLA western theatre command spokesperson Colonel Zhang Shiuli.
Fifty-eight years after 1962, the capture of Galwan river valley provides the PLA strategic domination over positions overlooking India’s Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road, which connects Leh to the Karakoram Pass.
India had started work on DSDBO road in 2001, but it was finally completed after a realignment of the section along the Shyok river last year.
At various border meetings after the stand-off, the Chinese had repeatedly raised concern about the DSDBO road – even though the Indian side had been sceptical that China was articulating the real motivation for its actions in eastern Ladakh.
On June 10, Ajai Shukla had first written, in The Wire, that PLA negotiators had refused to even discuss the intrusions by their troops into Galwan river valley, instead claiming ownership over the entire area.
At the June 6 talks, the Chinese had asserted that their ownership of the entire Galwan valley, claiming that they had controlled the hills along the river for “as long as they could remember”.
Shukla also wrote that by dominating the DSDBO road, China had also managed to isolate the Depsang area, where a substantial Chinese presence had also been observed.