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India-China border: 20 India soldiers killed after clash with China

06:45 | 17/06/2020

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a skirmish along the border with Chinese forces. The incident follows rising tensions and is the first deadly clash in the border area in at least 45 years.

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According to CNN, at least 20 India soldiers was dead during a "de-escalation process" underway in the Galwan Valley in the disputed Aksai Chin-Ladakh area, where a large troop build-up has reportedly been taking place for weeks now on both sides of the border before senior military commanders began talks earlier this month.

India and China have been locked in a border dispute for decades. BBC
India-and-China-have-been-locked-in-a-border-dispute-for-decades.-BBC

It had been reported that three soldiers had died, but added on Tuesday that a further 17 troops "who were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries."

The deaths are the first military casualties along the two countries' disputed border for more than 40 years.

According to the earlier Indian army statement, there was the loss of life "on both sides," but it did not specify any number of Chinese casualties.

Senior military officials from both sides are currently meeting to defuse the situation, the statement added. It was not immediately clear how India would respond to China, which has a much more powerful military.

According to BBC, China did not confirm any casualties but accused India in turn of crossing the border onto the Chinese side.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said India had crossed the border twice on Monday, "provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in a serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides", AFP news agency reported.

An Indian military banner post is seen next to a road in Ladakh in 2012. The region shares a border with both China and Pakistan.
An-Indian-military-banner-post-is-seen-next-to-a-road-in-Ladakh-in-2012.-The-region-shares-a-border-with-both-China-and-Pakistan.-CNN

"India and China have been discussing through military and diplomatic channels the de-escalation of the situation in the border area in Eastern Ladakh," said India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava on Tuesday.

He said senior commanders had "agreed on a process for such de-escalation" during a "productive meeting" on Saturday, June 6, and ground commanders had met regarding the implementation.

"While it was our expectation that this would unfold smoothly, the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley," he said in the statement.

"Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side," he added.

"Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC. We expect the same on the Chinese side. We remain firmly convinced of the need for the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue. At the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The two nuclear-armed neighbors have a chequered history of face-offs and overlapping territorial claims along the more than 3,440km (2,100 miles), poorly drawn Line of Actual Control separating the two sides.

Border patrols have often bumped into each other, which results in occasional scuffles. However, there are no bullets that have been fired in four decades.

That is why Sunday's night's clash after months of roiling tension has taken many by surprise.

Whatever the result, the latest incident is likely to trigger a fresh wave of anti-China sentiments in India.

It will also present daunting foreign policy and security challenges to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, which is struggling to contain a surge of Covid-19 infections and revive an economy that looks headed for recession.

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