The Indian Army said on Tuesday that at least 20 soldiers died during the “violent face-off” with Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control on Monday. Earlier reports had said that three soldiers – including a colonel – had been killed.

“Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed on the night of 15/16 June 2020,” a statement by the Indian Army said. “Seventeen Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the stand off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20.”

The Army added that it is firmly committed to protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.

At least 43 Chinese soldiers were either killed or injured in the clash, ANI reported, citing “Indian intercepts”.

Three of the deceased Indian soldiers have been identified as Colonel B Santosh Babu, Havildar Palani and Sepoy Ojha. 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.

The Ministry of External Affairs has alleged that the face-off at Eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley was due to China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the area. “On the late-evening and night of 15th June, 2020, a violent face-off happened as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said earlier in the day. “Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side.”

The Indian Army said in a statement on Tuesday morning that the clash took place during a de-escalation process that was under way in the Galwan Valley. The extent of the casualties on the Chinese side is not yet clear.

China, however, accused India of crossing the border twice and attacking its troops, China’s Foreign Ministry asked India not to take unilateral actions. 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”.

Indo-China tension

The escalation between both India and China came at a time there were efforts were under way to defuse weeks of tension at the border. Tensions between the two countries 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 were 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.

Also read:

  1. Explainer: What we know about the first deaths on the disputed India-China border in 40 years
  2. India-China standoff was due to attempt by Beijing to unilaterally change status quo, says MEA