Indian troops on border duty carry arms: Jaishankar to Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Jun 18 (PTI) All Indian troops guarding the border with China carry arms, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday, replying to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's poser on why Army personnel in Galwan Valley were sent 'unarmed to martyrdom'.

The external affairs minister said armies of the two sides do not use firearms as per provisions of two bilateral agreements sealed in 1996 and 2005.

'Let us get the facts straight. All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving post. Those at Galwan on 15 June did so,' Jaishankar said on Twitter.

He also said there was a long-standing practice between the two countries of not resorting to use of firearms in faceoffs in view of two agreements of 1996 and 2005.

Military sources told PTI that all the Indian Army soldiers who valiantly fought the Chinese troops in Galwan Valley carried firearms. However, the soldiers did not use their firearms following the highest standards and ethics of Indian Army, they added.

Twenty Indian Army personnel including a Colonel were killed in the fierce clash between the two armies in Galwan Valley on Monday evening. China has not yet released any casualty figures.

The Chinese soldiers used stones, nail-studded sticks, iron rods and clubs in carrying out brutal attacks on Indian soldiers after they protested the erection of a surveillance post by China on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in the Galwan Valley.

Jaishankar's response came hours after Gandhi questioned why Indian soldiers were sent 'unarmed to martyrdom' in Ladakh and who was responsible for sending them towards danger. He also asked 'how dare' China kill the Indian soldiers.

'China has committed a big crime by killing unarmed Indian soldiers. I want to ask who sent these bravehearts towards danger without arms and why. Who is responsible for this,' Gandhi asked in a video message.

'How dare China kill our UNARMED soldiers? Why were our soldiers sent UNARMED to martyrdom,' he said.

The former Congress president has been questioning the government over the martyrdom of Indian soldiers and has demanded answers from the prime minister.

The clash in Galwan Valley was the biggest confrontation along the Line of Actual Control between the two forces after their clashes in Nathu La in 1967 when India lost around 80 soldiers while the death toll on the Chinese side was over 300.

The two armies were engaged in a standoff in Galwan and several other areas of eastern Ladakh since May 5 when the two sides clashed on the bank of the Pangong Tso.

After the standoff began, the Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.

The trigger for the face-off was China's stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.

The situation in the area deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9. PTI MPB RDM RDM