Glowing tributes were paid to the ”bravehearts of Galwan” on Tuesday as India remembered its army personnel who laid down their lives while thwarting Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh a year ago.
“Their valour will be eternally etched in the memory of the nation,” the Army said as Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane led the force in paying homage to the 20 soldiers on the first anniversary of the deadly clashes which drastically changed the political and military dynamics of the region.
Major General Akash Kaushik, the officiating General Officer Commanding of the Fire and Fury Corps, laid a wreath at the iconic Leh war memorial. Also called the 14 Corps, it takes care of guarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the Ladakh region.
A statue of Colonel Santosh Babu, the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar Regiment who was awarded the Mahavir Chakra posthumously, was unveiled at his native place in Suryapet by Telangana Minister K T Rama Rao.
“It is a personal loss for me and my two children. But his sacrifice for India makes me feel proud of him,” said Vanathi Devi, wife of Havildar K Palani, and noted the various challenges faced by the military personnel.
Havildar (Gunner) K Palani, who was conferred the Vir Chakra, posthumously, was a native of Kadukalur village in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.
Three other soldiers, Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren, Naik Deepak Singh and Sepoy Gurtej Singh were also awarded the Vir Chakra posthumously.
Leaders from across the political spectrum took to Twitter to pay homage to the Galwan heroes on Tuesday.
The Congress, which has been critical of the government handling of the standoff with China, said many questions remain unanswered.
“I join a grateful nation in remembering the 20 brave jawans of the Bihar Regiment, including their commanding officer who tragically lost their lives in a confrontation with PLA troops in Galwan on the night of 15-16 June 2020.
“There are many questions that remain unanswered of that incident and many explanations this government owes to our people,” Rahul Gandhi said in an Instagram post.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said her party has patiently waited for the government to come clean and inform the nation about the circumstances in which the unprecedented incident happened.
“The Congress party reiterates its concern that no clarity is yet available and the prime minister”s last word on the subject a year ago was that no transgression had occurred,” she said.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra reminded the people that the brave soldiers “had killed the enemy”.
“Our eyes are moist but there is a feeling of immense pride in the heart that the sons of Ma Bharati protected the pride and honour of the motherland with their supreme sacrifice. The country will remain indebted to its brave sons till eternity,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted in Hindi.
“Salute to the immortal martyrdom of all those soldiers of the country who fought till their last breath to defend the country. The country will remain ever indebted to the immortal sacrifice of our soldiers,” Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter.
The Indian Army last year built a memorial for the ”Gallants of Galwan” at Post 120 in eastern Ladakh that mentioned their heroics under operation ”Snow Leopard” and the way they evicted the PLA troops from the area while inflicting “heavy casualties” on them.
The names of the 20 Army personnel were also inscribed on the National War Memorial in Delhi.
It was the first deadly clash in the border area in nearly five decades and saw fierce hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops. It was followed a large deployment of troops and heavy weaponry by both armies at the friction points in eastern Ladakh.
In February, China officially acknowledged that five Chinese military officers and soldiers were killed in the clashes with the Indian Army though it is widely believed that the death count was higher.
The Galwan Valley clashes that took place over a month after a border standoff began in eastern Ladakh brought Sino-India under severe strain, and there were calls for boycott of Chinese goods and companies.
India wants peace but is capable of giving a befitting reply when instigated, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said after the incident, as he assured the nation that the sacrifice of the soldiers will not go in vain.
Days after the clashes, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had bluntly told his Chinese counterpart that the “unprecedented development will have a serious impact on the bilateral relationship.
India held the neighbouring country accountable for triggering the Ladakh standoff by violating rules of engagement on border management and conveyed that peace and tranquillity along the LAC is the basis for the progress of the rest of the relationship and they cannot be separated.
The two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February following a series of military and diplomatic talks.
They are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points, but there has been no visible forward movement after the 11th round of military talks in April.
“A year after the shock of a fatal border clash, tensions remain high with no consensus on how to resolve the issues over an unverified LAC,” senior Colonel (Retd) Zhou Bo of the People”s Liberation Army said in an article published in a Hong Kong newspaper.
He suggested China and India should implement the existing confidence-building measures and follow up by taking the “boldest step” of establishing “buffer zones” in the “most dangerous areas” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to prevent the border dispute from spilling over into a conflict.
Last month, Army Chief Gen Naravane had said that there can be no de-escalation without complete disengagement at all friction points in eastern Ladakh and that the Indian Army is prepared for all contingencies in the region.
Gen Naravane also said that India is dealing with China in a “firm” and “non-escalatory” manner to ensure the sanctity of its claims in eastern Ladakh and that it was even open to initiating confidence-building measures.
India has been insisting on complete disengagement in remaining friction points to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ladakh.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)