A sensational report on the 2020 Galwan Valley escalation has come up from an independent Australian portal -The Klaxon. According to the report, at least 38 Chinese soldiers drowned in the Galwan river between June 15 to 16 while attempting to cross the river in the dark.
On June 15, 2020, a clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in Ladakh had erupted against freezing sub-zero temperatures in the night which escalated border tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbouring nations. While the Indian government acknowledged the casualties suffered and honoured its soldiers, China has been hiding its casualties in the clash since the very beginning.
In February 2021, China conferred posthumous awards upon four PLA troops thus officially recognising the casualties from the Galwan clash for the first time. Earlier, an image of a tombstone of a deceased PLA soldier provided the first evidence of Chinese casualty in the clashes.
However, according to the recent report by The Klaxon, ”at least 38 PLA troops were washed away and drowned” on the night of June 15 when the clash happened at the Galwan River. According to the report, evidence has also emerged that strongly suggests The Chinese side have intentionally conflated facts and imagery of two separate but similar clashes that occurred just over a week apart in Galwan.
Chinese media had reported nothing about the clashes and the Chinese casualties in the days after the events.
While the Indian side officially confirmed 20 of its soldiers were martyred in the incident, China has been repeatedly refused to disclose its total casualties. The new evidence backed by independent journalists and researchers states that the number of official casualties on the Chinese side extenders well beyond four – who were officially recognised by giving medals. “Beijing has gone to extreme lengths in order to silence discussion about the battle – in particular, discussion about the true number of Chinese casualties.” the report states.
‘They kept slipping away and drowning’
As claimed by the report, From April 2020 The Chinese forces started ramping up temporary infrastructure in the Galwan valley including tents, dugouts and machinery. Since May that year, skirmishes resulted out of clashes between Indian and Chinese troops at various points along the China-India border including one at the Pangong Lake in Ladakh.
A report prepared by social media researchers titled ‘Galwan Decoded’ explicitly states, “What was told by (China) to the world were mostly fabricated stories”. Following a year-long investigation involving discussions with mainland Chinese bloggers, information obtained from Chinese citizens and media reports which have since been deleted by Chinese authorities, the researchers who have published the report have however declined to be named on security grounds.
“Many blogs and pages have been culled by (Chinese authorities) but digital archives of mainland China reveal a different story,” the report says. The report claims that many Chinese soldiers were killed while attempting to cross in the fast-flowing Galwan River. As of today, China has claimed that only Junior Sergeant Wang Zhuoran – is reported as having drowned in the river, while the other three – PLA Battalion Commander Major Chen Hongjun, Private Chen Xiangrong and Junior Sergeant Xiao Siyuan, were killed by Indian forces.
The research report also includes a document that has been deleted from the internet which explicitly states that Wang Zhuorang’s company was ordered to ‘perform a support mission’ in June 2020. It further mentions, ”comrades in arms kept slipping and being rushed downstream. Wang Zhuran (Zhuoran) pushed four comrades ashore one after another but his legs became stuck by stones at the bottom of the river. The document also reportedly admits, “His physical strength was too weak and he drowned”.
The Klaxon also claims to have obtained real footage of the battle released by Chinese media in August last year, which appears to strongly support the above claims.
Clash started over a temporary Bridge
The Klaxon report says, the roots of the Galwan clash date back to 22nd May 2020 when Indian soldiers tried to construct a temporary bridge over the Galwan river. According to the report, On May 22, Indian troops led by Colonel Santosh, Commander of the 16th Regiment of Bihar, “created a temporary walk-over bridge” over a stream of the Galwan River to allow troops to monitor Chinese activities. While the PLA was constructing its own infrastructure in the buffer zone, the construction of a temporary bridge by Indian troops sparked a strong reaction from the Chinese. On June 6, 80 PLA soldiers came to dismantle the bridge and nearly 100 troops came to defend it from the Indian side. After the June 6 standoff, both sides agreed to withdraw all personnel who crossed the buffer zone and mutually decided to dismantle all the facilities that crossed the line.
However, not adhering to the promise, The Chinese side instead of removing infrastructure built by them, started dismantling the bridge constructed by the Indian army. In retaliation, “On 15th June 2020, Col. Santosh Babu along with his troops went to the disputed area in the Galwan Valley at night in an attempt to remove the Chinese encroachment where Col. Qi Fabao heading the Chinese side was present along with nearly 150 soldiers.
‘Chinese retreat after Indian attack’
Instead of moving forward with dialogue, Fabao “ordered his troops to form a battle formation, instead of discussing the issue on the lines of mutual consent made on June 6, 2021”. The moment Col. Fabao attacked he was immediately besieged by the Indian army troops. For his rescue, came PLA battalion commander Chen Hongjun and soldier Chen Xiangrong while starting “a physical scuffle with Indian troops using steel pipes, sticks and stones to provide cover for (their) commander to escape.”
Interestingly, it is revealed that Colonel Qi Fabao was “hit in the head by an Indian army soldier and rushed back with serious injuries”. Moreover, “China’s Hongjun and Xiangrong were immediately silenced by the Indian army”, according to the report. Another Chinese soldier, Xiao Siyuan who was recording the event was attacked and severely wounded by an Indian soldier and later succumbed to his injuries. Reportedly, after Col. Fabao left the arena and when the PLA soldiers watched the dead bodies of major military commanders, they panicked into retreat.
Wang Zhuoran, whose company was ordered to support the mission “came forward along with his companion Ma Ming to help his scattered retreating comrades out of danger by guiding (their) way to retreat back.” It is reported that The PLA soldiers didn’t even have time to wear water pants and hurriedly decided to cross the icy waters of Galwan in the night to attack further. The report suggests that at this juncture, “The river rose suddenly and injured comrades kept slipping and (being) washed downstream”. Information gathered from the people who attended Wang’s funeral reveals that Junior Sergeant Wang Zhuorang pushed four of his comrades across the river successfully but his legs became stuck by stones at the bottom of the river.”
Based on resources by several Weibo users, “At least 38 PLA troops along with Wang were washed away and drowned that night, of which only Wang was declared among the four officially dead soldiers” After the incident, the bodies of the soldiers were first taken to the Shiquanhe Martyr Cemetery and were later handed at the local towns of the killed soldiers. Reportedly, the Chinese side reportedly used lethal weapons including iron rods, batons wrapped in barbed wire and clubs embedded with nails breaking the protocol of bilateral agreement between the countries signed in 1996.
With the new report exposing the claims of the Chinese having a minimal casualty in Galwan, Chinese propaganda on the death of its soldiers falls completely flat. While now an unofficial count of at least 38 PLA soldiers being dead in Galwan, the estimate by Former Indian Army Chief and Cabinet Minister General VK Singh of Chinese casualties being double than that on the Indian side (20) holds true as of now.