Three Indian soldiers killed in clash with Chinese troops

16 June 2020, 10:38

File photo: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, front and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands with leaders at the BRICS summit in Goa
File photo: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, front and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands with leaders at the BRICS summit in Goa. Picture: PA

By Megan White

At least three Indian soldiers have been killed in a confrontation with Chinese troops along their disputed frontier in the Himalayas.

A senior officer was among those killed in a a "violent face-off" which took place in Galwan valley in the Ladakh region on Monday night, "with casualties on both sides", according to the Indian army.

The incident is the first confrontation between the two countries in which soldiers have died since 1975, and comes after forces on both sides faced off for more than a month.

The statement said: "The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers.

"Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation."

China has accused Indian forces along their Himalayan border of carrying out "provocative attacks" on its troops, leading to "serious physical conflicts" between the sides.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian gave no details over any casualties on the Chinese side, but said China had strongly protested against the incident while still being committed to maintaining "peace and tranquillity" along the disputed and heavily militarised border.

Mr Zhao added: "But what is shocking is that on June 15, the Indian troops seriously violated the consensus of the two sides, crossed the border illegally twice and carried out provocative attacks on Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical conflicts between the two border forces."

Thousands of soldiers from the two countries, backed by armoured trucks and artillery, have been facing off just a few hundred yards apart for more than a month in the Ladakh region near Tibet.

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

Indian officials say Chinese soldiers crossed the boundary in Ladakh in early May at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts and ignoring verbal warnings to leave.

This triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights, much of it replayed on television news channels and social media.

China has sought to downplay the confrontation while saying the two sides are communicating through both their front-line military units and their respective embassies to resolve issues.

Though skirmishes are not new along their along long disputed frontier, the stand-off at Ladakh's Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China, has escalated in recent weeks.

India and China fought a border war in 1962 which also spilled into Ladakh. The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s, without success.

Since then, soldiers from the two sides have frequently faced off along the long frontier that stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the north-east.

The Indian army statement said the "violent face-off" occurred "during the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley".