A senior Indian government official has told media that forces of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deployed water as a weapon during recent fatal clashes witht Indian troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan region on 15 and 16 June.
Indian newspaper The Hindu quotes the unnamed official as saying that the confrontation began on 13 June when Colonel Santosh Babu of the Indian army dismantled and burned a tent erected by the Chinese. Dismantling of the tent had been previously agreed by both parties.
However, when the Indian troopers were patrolling the area on the day of the clash, the Chinese "unleashed a strong current of water by unblocking rivulets in higher ground, thereby releasing water at high speed. The water caused the troopers to lose balance and the Chinese charged and pushed the Indian troops into the Galwan River".
It is estimated that 20 Indian Army personnel were killed and several injured by the Chinese who were wearing body protectors, helmets and carrying spiked batons. No shots were fired in the fracas.
The Ministry of External Affairs claims that the Chinese action was premeditated and that the Indian patrol was ambushed in the first clash of its kind in the last 45 years.
Separately, China has declined to respond to queries on reports of building a dam on the Galwan River at the Sino-Indian border.
Satellite imagery purports to show heavy construction equipment in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, tents, and trucks and there have been reports that the PLA was constructing a dam to block the flow of the river.
China has claimed sovereignty over the entire disputed Galwan Valley and New Delhi is disputing that position. Nevertheless, Beijing has been using its dam building capacity to control major rivers and to withhold water from downstream countries.