A confrontation between Indian and Chinese troops along the two nations’ disputed Himalayan border has left at least three Indian soldiers dead in a region where thousands of troops on both sides have been facing off for over a month, the Indian army said.
The clash — during which neither side fired any shots, according to Indian officials — is the first deadly confrontation between the two Asian giants since 1975.
The Indian army said a “violent face-off” took place in Galwan Valley in the Ladakh region on Monday night, “with casualties on both sides”.
“The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers,” the statement said. “Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation.”
China accused Indian forces along the border of carrying out “provocative attacks” on its troops, leading to “serious physical conflicts”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian gave no details of any casualties on the Chinese side, but said Beijing had strongly protested over the incident while still being committed to maintaining “peace and tranquillity” along the disputed and heavily militarised border.
“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,” Mr Zhao said.
Thousands of soldiers from the two countries, backed by armoured trucks and artillery, have been facing off just a few hundred metres 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 authorities have officially maintained near-total silence on the issues related to the confrontation, and it was not immediately clear how the three Indian soldiers died.
But two Indian security sources said soldiers from the two sides engaged in fistfights and stone-throwing, which led to the casualties. Both said no shots were fired by either side.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi did not comment on the clash in a televised meeting on Tuesday with state officials.
The tense stand-off started in early May, when Indian officials said Chinese soldiers had crossed the boundary in Ladakh at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts and ignoring verbal warnings to leave.
That 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 were communicating through frontline military units and their respective embassies to resolve issues.
The disputed border covers nearly 2,200 miles of frontier that the two countries call the Line of Actual Control.
Though skirmishes are not new along the frontier, the stand-off at 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 that also spilled into Ladakh. The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s without success.