The Chinese military on Tuesday blamed India for the “violent face-off” between troops of the two countries in Galwan Valley in Ladakh. Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the Western Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, alleged that the Indian military crossed the Line of Actual Control – the disputed border between the two countries, which is neither defined nor demarcated – and deliberately launched provocative attacks.
The Indian Army has confirmed that 20 Indian soldiers died during the “violent face-off” on Monday night during a de-escalation process. These are the first fatalities on the Line of Actual Control between the nuclear-armed neighbours in more than 40 years.
The Army said there were casualties on both sides, but added that the extent of it on the Chinese side was not yet clear. At least 43 Chinese soldiers were either killed or injured in the clash, ANI reported, citing “Indian intercepts”. However, Zhang did not mention any casualties on the Chinese side.
Zhang said “the sovereignty over the Galvan Valley area has always belonged to China” and accused the Indian side of violating agreements and protocols. He added that the Indian troops “severely undermined the Sino-Indian military relations”. “We demand the Indian military strictly restrain its frontline troops, immediately stop all infringing and provocative actions, work with the Chinese side towards the same goal, and return to the right track of resolving differences through dialogue and talks,” read his statement.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said 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 on Tuesday. “Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side.”
Meanwhile, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres urged both India and China to exercise “maximum restraint”, reported PTI.
“We are concerned about reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China and urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint,” said Eri Kaneko, the associate spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General. “We take positive note of reports that the two countries have engaged to deescalate the situation.”
The escalation between both India and China came at a time there were efforts were under way to diffuse 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.