Ten Indian Army personnel, captured by the Chinese following the violent clashes in Galwan Valley on the night of June 15-16, were returned Thursday evening after talks at the diplomatic and military level.
A military officer told The Indian Express that some soldiers were missing after clashes between the two sides near Patrolling Point 14. Throughout much of Tuesday, they kept making their way back to the base, the officer said.
It was finally ascertained late Tuesday that 10 soldiers, including four officers, were still missing. This was raised during the talks Wednesday and the Chinese accepted that the soldiers were in their custody.
Talks at the Major General level between the two sides were held in a very tense environment where both sides discussed the incident.
On the same day, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar raised the matter with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during a phone call. No readout, from either Delhi or Beijing, made any mention of the missing Indian soldiers.
The matter was also raised in Beijing by India’s Ambassador to China, Vikram Misri. The Chinese side agreed to return the soldiers without making any demand, the officer said.
The soldiers were returned at PP-14 during the third consecutive meeting of Major Generals late Thursday afternoon. None of the soldiers, the officer said, was injured. After a medical examination, they were shifted to Leh. A detailed debriefing will take place after they have rested for a few days, the officer said.
The Army issued a statement Thursday evening confirming that no soldier was missing in action, which meant that all soldiers involved in the clashes had been accounted for.
A PTI report from Beijing Friday quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian telling reporters: “As far as I know, China presently has not detained any Indian personnel.”
Asked if there are any Chinese soldiers detained by India, he said: “China and India are in a dialogue to resolve the matter on ground through diplomatic and military channels. I don’t have any information for you at the moment.”
On the night of June 15, in the worst flare-up on the LAC in more than five decades, 20 Indian Army personnel, including the commanding officer of 16 Bihar, were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley where disengagement of troops on either side was underway.
Meanwhile, large scale movement of troops to Ladakh has been ordered from other parts of the country in the wake of the Galwan Valley incident.
While the build-up of forces had already taken place to a considerable extent after Chinese forces had gathered in strength along the Line of Actual Control, the Galwan incident, sources said, has led to fresh strategic assessment.