NEW DELHI, June 17 - A surveillance post set up by the Chinese Army on a narrow mountain trail in violation of an agreement was the trigger for the high altitude border clash in eastern Ladakh�s Galwan Valley in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Indian troops, commanded by the late Col B Santosh Babu, strongly objected to the post on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control on the southern banks of the Galwan river and attempted to remove it on Monday evening, sources in the know said, recapping the events leading to the biggest military confrontation between the two neighbours in five decades. A small group of Chinese personnel present at the camp reacted angrily to the objections of the Indian Army�s patrolling team but soon retreated to the Chinese side of the LAC.
They returned shortly after with more troops, wearing protective gear and armed with stones, nail-studded sticks, iron rods and clubs, and confronted the Indian personnel.
At that point, the Indian soldiers had also been joined by additional troops and were attempting to remove the temporary structure, those familiar with the matter said.
The clash that followed went on for several hours on the vertiginous heights of eastern Ladakh with Chinese soldiers brutally attacking the Indians, they said.
One portion of the road caved in following which some Indian and Chinese soldiers fell into the Galwan river, they said. The LAC goes over the Galwan river in the area.
Babu and 19 other Indian Army personnel were killed in the fight on the steep heights.
It is learnt that initially a number of Indians were captured by the Chinese side but were released later.
The Indian side also retaliated strongly, but the casualties on the Chinese side are not yet known. However, government sources, citing an American intelligence report, claimed the total number of soldiers killed and seriously wounded could be 35. � PTI