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China reaffirms claim to Galwan Valley that was a flashpoint in 1962 war

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A day after India rejected China's claim of sovereignty over Galwan Valley, at the heart of a tense border standoff between the two sides, Beijing on Friday said the region is on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control and had been patrolled by its troops for "many years".

On Monday night, Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a seven-hour violent face-off in Galwan Valley that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and at least 76 injured. Another 10 Indian soldiers, including on Lt. Colonel and three major rank officers, held by the Chinese side were released on Thursday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday said: "The Galwan Valley is located on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary. For many years, the Chinese border troops have been patrolling and on duty in this region."

According to Hindustan Times Zhao Lijian's statement was posted on Chinese Embassy's website shortly before midnight on Friday.

Lijian also said that since April, Indian troops had "unilaterally and continuously built roads, bridges and other facilities at the LAC in the Galwan Valley". China made representations and protests on multiple occasions but "India has gone even further to cross the LAC and make provocations", Zhao added.

Zhao said Indian troops crossed the LAC by night and trespassed into China's territory on May 6 and then "built fortification and barricades, which impeded the patrol of Chinese border troops".

They deliberately made provocations in an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo of control and management. The Chinese border troops have been forced to take necessary measures to respond to the situation on the ground and strengthen management and control in the border areas.

Referring to a meeting of senior Indian and Chinese military commanders held on June 6, Zhao said the two sides "reached consensus on easing the situation". He claimed the Indian side "promised that they would not cross the estuary of the Galwan river to patrol and build facilities... and the two sides would discuss and decide the phased withdrawal of troops".

Zhao claimed that on June 15, Indian troops violated the agreement reached on June 6 and "once again crossed the Line of Actual Control for deliberate provocation"and even violently attacked the Chinese officers and soldiers who went there for negotiation, thus triggering fierce physical conflicts and causing casualties".

Zhao reiterated various accusations leveled by the Chinese side in recent days about the violation of agreements.

Strategic importance of Galwan Valley

The Galwan River Valley is considered a point of great strategic importance for both India and China. Control of the Galwan valley gives access to the Aksai Chin plateau, through which part of the Xinjiang-Tibet highway passes.

Located about 17,000 feet above sea-level, Galwan Valley is mired by extreme weather conditions and sub-zero temperatures.

Since 1956, China has advanced its border claim line steadily westward more than three times, eroding Galwan's status. However, interestingly, post-1962, there have been no military face-offs vis-a-vis the region. That is, until now.

In 1962, a stand-off at Galwan was one of the biggest sparks of the Sino-Indian war that began on October 20, 1962.

India is engaged in building up border infrastructure in Galwan Valley area, including the all-weather 255 km Darbul-Shayok- DBO road. The road runs almost parallel--at places very close--to the LAC and extends up to the base of the strategic Karakoram pass.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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