Twenty Soldiers Dead after China-India Clash Along Disputed Border
Twenty Indian soldiers were died during “hand-to-hand’ combat with Chinese troops in a disputed Himalayan region, the first deadly clash among the nuclear countries in decades.
Both sides blamed the other for Monday’s violence, which followed weeks of rising tensions over their competing territorial claims, with thousands of extra troops deployed.
The clashes reportedly involved intense fighting and no gunfire, in line with longstanding tactics to avoid a full military battle over the disputed 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) border.
An Indian army source told AFP there was no shooting but there were “violent hand-to-hand scuffles”. The fighting occurred in the precipitous, rocky terrain of the strategically important Galwan Valley, which lies between China’s Tibet and India’s Ladakh.
The soldiers threw punches and stones at each other, with Chinese troops allegedly attacking their Indian counterparts with rods and nail-studded clubs during the more than six-hour fight, the Hindustan Times reported.
India initially said three of its troops had died, and that there were “casualties on both sides”. But in a statement late Tuesday the army added 17 more critically injured were “exposed to sub-zero temperatures… (and) succumbed to their injuries”.
China’s defense ministry confirmed the incident had resulted in casualties but didn’t give the nationality of the victims or the other details. Both sides gave competing versions of the violence.
Beijing declared Indian troops “passed the borderline twice… stirring and striking Chinese personnel, leading to the serious physical encounter among border forces on both sides”.
But Indian foreign ministry spokesperson stated the collision resulted from “an effort by the Chinese side to alter the status quo” on the border unilaterally.
While the incident dominated the free-wheeling Indian press, China’s state-controlled media played down or ignored it, in keeping with Beijing’s low-key public response.
“China does not want to turn border issues with India into a confrontation,” the Global Times, a nationalist Chinese tabloid said in an editorial on Wednesday. However, it blasted India for “arrogance and recklessness.”
The UN involved each side to “exercise maximum restraint.” India and China haven’t even agreed on the extent of their “Line of Actual Control” frontier, and every side practices several frontier proposals created by Britain to China in the 19th century to back their demands.
They fought a quick war in 1962, during which China took territory from India. More deadly clashes happened in 1967, but the last shot fired in outrage was in 1975, when four Indian troops were attacked and killed along the line in Arunachal Pradesh.
In 2017 there was a 72-day confrontation after Chinese forces propelled into the contradicted Doklam plateau on the China-India-Bhutan border.
The recent uptick in tensions began on May 9, when several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in a clash involving fists and stone-throwing at Naku La in India’s Sikkim state, which borders Bhutan, Nepal, and China.
China said last week it had reached a “positive consensus” with India over resolving tensions at the border, while New Delhi also sounded conciliatory.
But, Indian sources and news reports implied that Chinese troops prevailed in portions of the Galwan Valley and, consequently, controlled the northern coast of the Pangong Tso lake in recent weeks.
The thorny relationship had already been wrenched when India in August revoked the semi-autonomous standing of Jammu and Kashmir region.
That saw the Ladakh region — partly claimed by Beijing — became a separate Indian administrative territory.