20 Indian Soldiers Killed In A Violent Clash With Chinese Soldiers

At least 20 Indian soldiers have been killed in a violent face-off with Chinese forces on the disputed border, the Indian army has said, in a major escalation of a weeks-long standoff in the western Himalayas.

In a statement, the army said on Tuesday that 17 “critically injured” Indian troops succumbed to their wounds, in addition to an officer and two soldiers who had died earlier.

The troops died “in the line of duty at the stand-off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain … taking the total that were killed in action to 20”, the statement said.

Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged in the areas where the clashes took place, the statement said, adding that India is firmly committed to “protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation”. 

An Indian army convoy moves along Srinagar-Leh national highway, at Gagangeer, in east Kashmir's Ganderbal district, June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
An Indian army convoy moves along Srinagar-Leh national highway, at Gagangeer, in east Kashmir’s Ganderbal district [Danish Ismail/Reuters]

 The incident marks the deadliest clash between the nuclear-armed neighbours in decades.

Tensions flare on a fairly regular basis between the two regional powers over their 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) frontier, which has never been properly demarcated.

Thousands of troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours, backed by armoured trucks and artillery, have been involved in the latest face-off since May in the Ladakh region, bordering Tibet.

Kashmir map
India and China have been locked in a border dispute for decades. Source BBC News

Indian officials say Chinese soldiers crossed the boundary at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts and ignoring verbal warnings to leave. That triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights.

Army officers and diplomats have held a series of meetings to try to end the impasse, with no breakthrough.

Meanwhile, China accused India of crossing a “disputed border” between the two countries, according to a report by the AFP news agency.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Indian troops crossed the border line twice on Monday, “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides”.

“We again solemnly request that India follows the relevant attitude and restrains its front line troops,” he said. “Do not cross the border, do not provoke trouble, do not take any unilateral action that would complicate the border situation.”

Beijing has lodged “strong protests and solemn representations” to New Delhi, Lijian said.

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China’s foreign ministry confirmed there had been a “violent physical confrontation” on Monday in the border area. It made no mention of casualties but India’s foreign ministry said there had been casualties on both sides.

'Col Chewang Rinchen Setu', a bridge built by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) over River Shyok, connecting Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldie in Eastern Ladakh
Tensions have risen over a road built by India in Ladakh

The deaths were the first since a border skirmish in 1975 between the nuclear-armed neighbours – also the world’s two most populous countries – which have been unable to settle the dispute along their lengthy frontier.

“This is extremely, extremely serious, this is going to vitiate whatever dialogue was going on,” former Indian army commander D S Hooda said.

Indian army soldiers rest next to artillery guns at a makeshift transit camp before heading to Ladakh, near Baltal, southeast of Srinagar, June 16, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Indian army soldiers rest next to artillery guns at a makeshift transit camp before heading to Ladakh, near Baltal, southeast of Srinagar [Reuters]

Military experts say one reason for the face-off is that India has been building roads and airfields to improve connectivity and narrow the gap with China’s far superior infrastructure.

At Galwan, India completed a road leading to an airfield last October. China has asked India to stop all construction.

India says it is operating on its side of the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border.

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