An Indian Army officer and two soldiers were killed on Monday in a “violent face-off” with Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley – one of the sites of conflict between the two nations, PTI reported. An Indian statement claimed that there had been casualties on “both sides” though full details of the incident are yet to be revealed.
The deceased Indian soldiers have been identified as Colonel B Santosh Babu, Havildar Palani and Sepoy Ojha, India Today reported.
This is the first such incident along the border with China in nearly 45 years. Four Indian soldiers had lost their lives in an ambush at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh in 1975.
“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place on Monday night with casualties,” the Indian Army said in a statement. “The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers.”
The Army added that there were casualties on the Chinese side as well, but the extent of it is not clear yet. Hu Xijin, the editor of China’s state-run The Global Times confirmed that they suffered casualties. “Based on what I know, Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash,” he tweeted. “I want to tell the Indian side, don’t be arrogant and misread China’s restraint as being weak. China doesn’t want to have a clash with India, but we don’t fear it.”
Senior military officials of both the sides are holding a meeting in Galwan Valley to defuse the tension, the Army said.
China, however, accused India of crossing the border and attacking its troops, AFP reported. China’s Foreign Ministry has asked India not to take unilateral actions or stir up trouble, according to Reuters. “Indian troops on Monday seriously violated consensus of the two sides by illegally crossing the border twice and carrying out provocative attacks on Chinese soldiers, resulting in serious physical clashes,” The Global Times quoted the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying, according to ANI.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian told AFP that Beijing has lodged “strong protests and solemn representations” to New Delhi. “Our border troops had a high-level meeting and reached important consensus on easing the border situation but astonishingly on June 15 the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities,” he added.
The People’s Liberation Army Western Theater Command claimed that Indian troops “broke their promises” by once again crossing the Line of Actual Control and purposefully launched “provocative attacks”, The Global Times reported. “China always owns sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region, and the Indian border defence troops are inconsistent with their words and seriously violated the agreements both countries have reached,” PLA Western Theater Command Spokesperson Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili said.
Zhang said that India should stop all “provocative actions” and resolve disputes through talks instead.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, the three service chiefs and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to discuss the ongoing standoff.
Border tensions between India and China heightened in May after Chinese troops clashed with the Indian Army at several points along the Line of Actual Control. India and China do not share a defined and demarcated border. Instead, there is the Line of Actual Control, which stretches thousands of kilometres from Ladakh all the way to Arunachal Pradesh.
The dispute between India and China centres around a strategic bridge being built near Daulat Beg Oldi, a military post south of the Karakoram Pass. China has reportedly asked India to stop building infrastructure even on its own side of the LAC. New Delhi, on the other hand, has asked Beijing to maintain the status quo on the border. In recent weeks, India and China have reportedly deployed additional troops along the LAC at North Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.
Earlier in May, there where reports of China pitching tents near river Galwan, which was also a flashpoint between New Delhi and Beijing during the Sino-Indian war of 1962. Both India and China had deployed additional security forces in the area amid heightened tensions.
Last week, the two countries agreed to peacefully resolve the border-standoff after high-level military talks. The meeting was held at the Border Personnel Meeting Point in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.