Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said on Sunday the “gallant action” of the 20 Indian Army personnel, who were killed in a violent face-off with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, have shown the forces’ resolve to protect “India’s sovereignty at any cost”.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief’s comments came after he made a low-key visit to Ladakh to review the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) preparedness in the sensitive sector where the force is operating its fighter jets and new attack and heavy-lift helicopters two days after the 20 army men, including a commander, were killed in Galwan Valley.
Bhadauria visited the forward airbases—Leh on Wednesday and Srinagar on Thursday—at a time of increased Chinese military activity across the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) where Indian and Chinese troops have been caught in a tense confrontation for over seven weeks and efforts to de-escalate have failed.
“Please join me in paying tribute to Colonel Santosh Babu and his brave men who made the sacrifice while defending the LAC in Galwan Valley. The gallant actions in a highly-challenging situation have demonstrated our resolve to protect India’s sovereignty at any cost,” Bhadauria said.
Colonel Babu was the commander of the 16th Bihar regiment, who was killed along with 19 other men Galwan valley in Eastern Ladakh on Monday night.
“It should be very clear that we are well prepared and suitably deployed to respond to any contingency. I assure the nation that we are determined to deliver and will never let the sacrifice of the braves of Galwan go in vain,” the IAF chief added.
He made the comments during the Combined Graduation Parade (CGP) at the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad.
“The security scenario in our region mandates that our armed forces remain prepared and vigilant at all times. The development at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh is a small snapshot of what we are required to handle at short notice,” he said.
“In spite of unacceptable Chinese action after agreements reached during military talks and resulting loss of lives, all efforts are underway to ensure that the current situation at LAC is resolved peacefully,” Bhadauria said.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) killed 20 personnel of the Indian Army, including a Colonel, on June 15 in the Galwan Valley after the PLA did not follow through on a commitment to disengage as per an understanding reached between the two militaries on June 6.
Indian military officials familiar with the sequence of the clash believe there were over 40 casualties on the Chinese side, including deaths and injuries. China has not officially given out numbers of casualties on its side.
Tensions between India and China have increased after the June 15 Galwan skirmish that marked the first Indian casualties in a border clash with PLA troops since October 1975 when Chinese troops ambushed an Indian patrol in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tulung La sector and shot four soldiers dead.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that neither has anyone entered Indian territory, nor is anyone present in Indian territory currently, and nor is any Indian post captured.
“Neither has anyone entered our territory, nor is anyone still there, nor is any of our posts under anyone’s capture. In Ladakh, our 20 jawans got martyred. But they taught a lesson to those who were eyeing Indian territory,” PM Modi said at an all-party meeting called to discuss the India-China border situation.
The PM had also praised the valour of the 20 army personnel killed in the clash and said they “taught a lesson” to those who were eyeing Indian territory.