The loss of soldiers in Galwan is deeply disturbing and painful, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said in the first comments by a Cabinet Minister in the government. His comments came a day after 20 soldiers, including a Colonel, were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh.
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“Our soldiers have displayed exemplary courage and valour in the line of duty and sacrificed their lives in the highest traditions of the Indian Army,” Mr. Singh said on Twitter. “The nation will never forget their bravery and sacrifice. My heart goes out to the families of the fallen soldiers. The nation stands shoulder to shoulder with them in this difficult hour. We are proud of the bravery and courage of India’s bravehearts,” he added.
The clashes came amidst a “de-escalation” process in the Galwan area that was started last week, after a month-long standoff between troops at several points along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and Sikkim.
While three soldiers, including Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar Regiment Colonel B. Santosh Babu, were killed in the clashes, the Army said 17 soldiers who were critically injured at the stand-off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain succumbed to their injuries later.
Army sources said wreath-laying would be held in Leh and the mortal remains of the three soldiers including that of officer Col. Santosh Babu, would be taken to their respective places. Army sources said all the next of kin of the 17 soldiers too have been informed and the names would be released shortly.
In the morning, Mr. Singh reviewed the Ladakh situation at a meeting in South Block attended by the Chief of Defence Staff and the three Services Chiefs. India was prepared to resolve the situation through discussions and there could be no compromise on India’s territorial integrity, Defence sources said.
On the ground in Ladakh, another round of Major General talks are scheduled to be held in the day to cool down tensions.