New Delhi-------------- Two Indian soldiers and an officer have been killed during a “violent face-off” with Chinese soldiers on the disputed Himalayan border. This is one of the most serious incidents involving the two countries in decades.
There were casualties on the Chinese side as well, Indian army officials in New Delhi, officials claimed, late Monday night when the incident was reported.
The incident took place in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, where the two sides had been in a stand-off for the past few weeks, with some skirmishes reported.
Military representatives of both sides were meeting to defuse the tension, according to an official statement released in New Delhi.
“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties on both sides.
“The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers,’’ army spokesperson, Col. Aman Anand, said.
“Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation,’’ Anand added.
Broadcaster NDTV reported that the deaths were not a result of gunfire, but possibly hand-to-hand combat.
Beijing accused India of crossing the border and attacking Chinese soldiers.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, told a press briefing that Indian forces had twice carried out “provocative” attacks across the border, leading to “serious physical clashes” on both sides.
The escalation between the Asian giants comes amid efforts to defuse weeks of tensions on the border.
Military-level talks had been initiated.
Thousands of Indian and Chinese forces have been locked in a stand-off for weeks at different places in the Ladakh region, including Pangong Lake and the Galwan valley, since early May, accusing each other of trespassing.
The deaths are believed to be the first in a confrontation between the two Asian neighbours since 1975 when four Indian soldiers died when a patrol was ambushed in the north-eastern state of Aunachal Pradesh, Indian media reported.
The Himalayan borders have seen skirmishes and clashes between the two countries before, but these have usually been resolved without the loss of lives following military and diplomatic talks.
India and China dispute several sections along their ill-defined 3,500-kilometre border, most of which runs along the Himalayan range.
The two countries fought a war over their border in 1962.
The latest stand-off in Ladakh has seen brawls involving fistfights, stone-pelting and shouting matches after Chinese troops entered deep inside Indian Territory and ignored warnings to leave, Indian media reported.
The Chinese troops were camping at the sites, having erected tents and brought material for the construction of bunkers.
India also deployed additional units in the area.
The last face-off between the forces of the Asian neighbours was at the uninhabited Doklam plateau in the eastern Himalayas, which continued for more than 70 days.
That stand- off saw troops dispatched to Doklam from both sides after China attempted to build a road through the plateau, which is claimed by Bhutan, a close ally of India.