NEW DELHI: The Indian army said on Tuesday that one of its officers and two soldiers were killed in a “violent faceoff” on the contested border with China, the first such incident in decades between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
Preliminary reports indicated that the soldiers had not been shot, but had been killed in a rock-throwing melee that was similar to fights that broke out last month along the border and seriously injured several soldiers on both sides, New York Times reported.
India and China have been locked in a standoff in the western Himalayas for weeks, though there had been no casualties on either side. The latest incident took place in the Galwan Valley in the mountainous region of Ladakh, the Indian army said in a statement. “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,” the statement added.
In Beijing, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said that Indian forces had twice crossed the border illegally on Monday and attacked Chinese personnel. He said the Chinese side had “lodged strong protests” but continued to work toward resolving the tensions between the two countries. According to the Hindustan Times, Beijing accused the Indian army of provoking and attacking Chinese soldiers after a border meeting to de-escalate the ongoing tension led to a “physical conflict” between the two sides. Reuters’ report suggested that Beijing warned New Delhi not to take unilateral action or stir up trouble. The Asian giants have rival claims to vast swathes of territory along their 3,500 kilometers Himalayan border, but the disputes have remained largely peaceful since a border war in 1962. India’s main stock indexes, gave up earlier gains after the news, and were last up about 0.4 per cent each at 07:40 GMT, while the rupee weakened to 76.04 to the dollar.
Tensions along the China-India border high in the Himalayas have flared again in recent weeks, leading defense experts in New Delhi to fear that the jostling could turn into an unintended full-blown military action.
Indian officials say the latest row began in early May, when Chinese soldiers entered the disputed territory of Ladakh at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts. They said the Chinese soldiers ignored repeated verbal warnings to depart, triggering shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights. China has sought to downplay the confrontation while providing little information.
Observers, however, believe that the face-off was triggered by India’s construction of roads and airstrips in the region.