Galwan Valley became a flash point on June 15, when a violent brawl broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers.
20 Indian soldiers were martyred in the incident, while 35 Chinese soldiers were either killed or injured. The incident took place at a time when the soldiers of both sides are locked in a tense stand off with each other.
So, who is the Galwan Valley named after, what does the map look like and what is the dispute all about. Let us find out.
Who is Galwan Valley named after:
The Galwan Valley is one of the flashpoint of the ongoing stand off between the Indian and Chinese troops. The Galwan River, which runs 80 kilometres westward from its origins in Karokoram range through Aksai Chin and East Ladakh to join the Shyok river is said to be of strategic significance in the region. It may be recalled that the Galwan Valley was also a flashpoint during the Indo-China war of 1962.
The Galwan Valley is named after Ghulam Rassul Galwan. He was a Ladakhi adventurer who was part of the numerous expeditions into Tibet, Yarkand, Karakoram range and the Pamirs. Galwan had in 1887 travelled with Major H H Goodwin-Austen, the English geologist who had determined the height of K2.
In 1892, he travelled with the 7th Earl of Dunmore. Galwan who was 14 at that time went around searching for a possible route out of the labyrinth. He found an easier passage through the ravines, which in turn helped the expedition go ahead without difficulty.
Dunmore then decided to name the new passage as Galwan Nullah.
The Galwan River is to the west of China's 1956 claim line in Aksai Chin. In 1960 China had advanced its claim to the west of the river along the mountain ridge adjoining the Shyok river valley. On the other hand, India continued to claim the entire Aksai Chin plateau.
In 1962, these claims and counter claims led to a stand off between India and China at the Galwan River Valley. On the 4th of July 1962, the Indian Gorkha troops set up a post n the upper reaches of the Valley. The post resulted in cutting the lines of communication to a Chinese post at Samzungling. The Chinese however interpreted it as a pre-meditated attack and surrounded the Indian post. India warned the Chinese that it was determined to hold the post at any cost.
On October 20 1962, when the war with China started, the Indian post had been reinforced with a company of troops. The Chinese PLA bombed the Indian post and also employed a battalion to attack. The Indian garrison suffered 33 losses. At the end of the war, China had reached its 1960 claim line.
The Valley was never part of China's claim until 1960. In the 1950s, when Beijing first asserted its right over Aksai Chin by building the 2,342 km China National Highway 219 connecting its western province to Xinjiang with Tibet, it also claimed with India further south west. Despite India objecting, China went ahead and presented a claim line in 1956.
In his book, War in the High Himalayas, Major General D K Palit observed, "till 1956, Chinese claims to territory south of the Kuen-Lun range had been vaguely described as 'the southern part of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region'. This vagueness could have been a deliberate policy that gave the Chinese room to make extravagant claims unrelated to geographical realities."
The 1956 line emanated from the Karakoram, cutting across the Aksai Chin, west of the newly constructed highway 219, well east of the Galwan Valley. China also built posts that established the line on the ground. The last post at the start of the Galwan Valley was Samsungling, which became the main base for the Chinese PLA in 1962 for its Galwan operations.
The 1956 alignment is what Chinese premier Chou-en-Lai confirmed with then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru in 21959. The map that he gave however did not contain Galwan. This had in fact become a contentious aspect in the boundary talks, held a year later. India however rejected the 1956 claim and said that the whole of Aksai Chin is India's territory.
The Sino-Indian border dispute' on the period leading up to the 1962 conflict records the visit quite vividly, especially how then Vice-President S. Radhakrishnan told off Chou when he drew attention to Chinese legends up to the 12th Century that refer to Ladakh and Aksai Chin as part of China. The vice president reportedly replied that on such a basis India could claim Kandahar, Kabul, and many other areas, including parts of China.
Radhakrishnan went on to nettle Chou with the comment that You have hurt us deeply, and it is surprising you don't know it, the CIA working paper said.
The Galwan battle:
IT was at the Galwan Valley where the Forward Policy by Nehru clashed with Mao Tse Tung's police of Armed Co-existence. Both sides monitored this sector at the highest levels.
The Chinese established another post along the valley called the River 5. On the Indian side there was a difference of view on whether to set up a post as per the Forward Policy in the Galwan Valley. The Intelligence Bureau then headed by B N Mullick said that one needs to be set up. The Army was however not in favour and saw no use in setting up a post.
"The DIB had long been clamouring for us to set up a post in this Valley. Daulet Singh (Western Army Commander) had objected to this proposal because he felt that the Chinese would interpret it as a deliberate measure to cut off the lines of communication to their post at Samzungling. But he was overruled at the post was ordered to be established," Major General Palit had recalled.
In the unilateral ceasefire announced by China in November 1962, Beijing had proposed that both sides withdraw 20 kilometres from their respective positions. The Chinese PLA were in no position to maintain posts at Galwan Valley as the winter had set in.
In 1990 when discussions were held on the Line of Actual Control there were 12 areas in Ladakh where a difference in perception existed. Galwan was however not on that list. Both sides had no despite over the LAC ran in this place. This is how Patrol Points 14, 15 and 17 were established.
However today China has clearly pushed beyond where they had reached in 1962 and trying to move ahead of the bend and also come closer to the River Shyok. China in plain terms wants to assert control over the areas it had advanced and also withdrawn in 1962.