At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and others are believed to be missing–and India is working to have them released from Chinese custody according to defense analyst Ajai Shukla — after a clash with Chinese forces during a dispute over the Himalayan border.
The soldiers reportedly engaged in hand to hand combat with sticks and bats,with Indian forces appearing to have been massively outnumbered by Chinese troops.No shots were fired. A senior Indian military official,who spoke to BBC said there were 55 Indians versus 300 Chinese, who he described as “the Death Squad”. China is yet to release casualty figures but unconfirmed reports allege that at least 40 Chinese soldiers died.
India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said China tried to erect a structure inside Indian territory, while China’s Wang Yi said Indian troops attacked first.But both countries have promised not to worsen the situation over a phone conversation.
According to an Indian government statement following the phone conversation,Chinese troops had tried to put up a structure on the Indian side of the de facto border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), in the strategically important Galwan Valley.
It described this as “premeditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties” and urged China to “take corrective steps”.
A Chinese statement by Mr Wang on the other hand said: “China again expresses strong protest to India and demands the Indian side launches a thorough investigation… and stop all provocative actions to ensure the same things do not happen again.” “Both sides should resolve the dispute through dialogue, and keep the border safe and tranquil.”
The LAC is poorly demarcated and the presence of rivers, lakes and snowcaps has in one occasion caused a shift in the line,making the soldiers on either side – representing two of the world’s largest armies – come face-to-face at many points.
The last firing on the border happened in 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed in a remote pass in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. No bullets have been fired ever since,after a 1996 bilateral agreement that says “neither side shall open fire,conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres of the Line of Actual Control”.
However, in recent weeks, there have been tense confrontations along the border. In May Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows on the border at Pangong Lake, also in Ladakh, and in the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim hundreds of miles to the east.
India has accused China of sending thousands of troops into Ladakh’s Galwan Valley and says China occupies 38,000 sq km (14,700 sq miles) of its territory. Several rounds of talks in the last three decades have failed to resolve the boundary disputes.