The circumstances of clashes this week between Chinese and Indian soldiers in disputed territory in the Himalayas are unclear. Both sides acknowledge there were casualties, but whether injuries or deaths cannot be said with certainty; Beijing does not say, while New Delhi puts firm numbers. High altitude, rough terrain and bitterly cold conditions make deploying and supplying troops challenging, let alone expecting them to then face off in combat. What can be said with conviction, though, is that neither country has good reason to go to war with the other. That is why India’s announcement that 20 of its soldiers and perhaps more than twice as many Chinese were killed in hand-to-hand fighting is surprising. Although their armies come face to face at numerous points along their shared 3,440km (2,138-mile) border and skirmishes occur from time to time, there have been no deaths in 45 years. An escalation to full-blown conflict as happened in 1962 would make no sense at a time when both governments are battling the Covid-19 pandemic. China is also embroiled in a number of diplomatic, economic and trade disputes, the worst with the United States, for which it is focused on talks in Hawaii today between its top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. China and India accuse each other of violating an agreement not to infringe on the Line of Actual Control that separates forces in the Galwan Valley in an area between Indian-administered Ladakh and the Chinese territory of Aksai Chin. What occurred is disputed; India claims those killed were beaten to death with clubs and rocks. While the Indian army said soldiers on both sides had died, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman mentioned only “casualties” and contended that India had crossed the border twice on Monday. It was a serious escalation of a dispute that has been building for months after India constructed a road to a reactivated airbase, prompting China to deploy troops and build infrastructure of its own. The area is economically, strategically and militarily important to both sides; for China, it is the only link between Xinjiang and Tibet. Tensions had been eased after senior commanders held talks on June 6, but a dangerous situation has been created nowthey have come to blows. High-level diplomacy resolved the last serious border dispute, the 73-day stand-off at Doklam, also known as Donglam in China, near the junction of the two nations with Bhutan in 2017. Rising nationalism in both countries poses a particular challenge, but it cannot be allowed to hold sway; military leaders have to cool tempers and a virtual meeting next Monday between the Chinese, Indian and Russian foreign ministers could be an opportunity to forge a more lasting truce and reinvigorate border negotiations.