Clashes at disputed border between India and China leaves 20 Indian soldiers dead

  • The Indian Army reports that 43 Chinese soldiers were killed or injured, but Beijing has yet to confirm
  • The dispute took place on the Himalayan border, after weeks of tension
Associated Press |
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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. Photo: REUTERS

20 Indian soldiers died as the result of a face-off with Chinese troops on the disputed Himalayan border, according to the Indian army, while more than 43 Chinese soldiers were killed or seriously injured.

The clash on Tuesday was one of the most serious fights between the two countries in decades.

Casualties have not been announced by Beijing, but senior journalists of China’s state-run Global Times newspaper had confirmed that earlier on Tuesday.

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“Seventeen Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high-altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that was killed in action to 20,” Indian army spokesman Colonel Aman Anand said.

“The Indian Army is firmly committed to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation,” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, broadcaster NDTV reported that the deaths were not a result of gunfire, but possibly hand-to-hand combat involving batons and stones.

India and China traded blame for the violent clashes. Beijing accused India of crossing the border and attacking Chinese soldiers.

Members of the non-governmental organisation MADADGAAR PARIVAR, hold placards and shout slogans as they protest against the killing of Indian soldiers by Chinese troops. (Photo by SAM PANTHAKY / AFP)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a press briefing that Indian forces had twice carried out “provocative” attacks across the border, leading to “serious physical clashes” on both sides.

Meanwhile, India’s Foreign Ministry blamed China for the clash, saying the People’s Liberation Army tried to unilaterally change the “status quo” at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which serves as the de facto border.

The significant escalation between the Asian giants with the largest populations in the world came amid military-level talks to defuse weeks of tensions on the border.

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Thousands of Indian and Chinese forces have been locked in a standoff for weeks at different places in the Ladakh region, including Pangong Lake and the Galwan Valley, since early May, accusing each other of trespassing.

The deaths are believed to be the first in a confrontation between the two Asian neighbors since 1975, when four Indian soldiers died when a patrol was ambushed in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, Indian media reported.

The Himalayan borders have seen skirmishes and clashes between the two countries before, but these have usually been resolved without the loss of life following military and diplomatic talks.

India and China dispute several sections along their ill-defined 3,500-kilometre border, most of which runs along the Himalayan range.

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The two countries fought a war over their border in 1962. Several rounds of talks over the last three decades have failed to resolve the boundary disputes.

The latest standoff in Ladakh has seen brawls involving fistfights, stone-pelting and shouting matches after Chinese troops entered deep inside Indian territory and ignored warnings to leave, Indian media reported.

The Chinese troops were camping at the sites, having erected tents and brought material for the construction of bunkers. India also deployed additional units in the area.

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The likely provocation for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India’s laying of a key road in the area around Pangong Lake, and the construction of another road connecting the Galwan Valley to an airstrip, Indian reports said.

India has sped up infrastructure projects, including the construction of roads and bridges in the remote border regions near China. Beijing has long carried out such activities, which have been criticised by Indian officials.

Beijing has also been wary of India fostering close ties with the United States in the recent years.

U.S. President Donald Trump recently offered to mediate between both sides to resolve the dispute, but both New Delhi and Beijing maintained they were holding talks on the matter.

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