At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent confrontation with Chinese forces at the border in the disputed Himalayan region, the Indian army announced on Tuesday, in the fiercest clash between the two nuclear powers in 45 years.
Each party held the responsibility of the clash, which took place Monday at the border in the Himalayas between the Chinese Tibet and the Indian region of Ladakh, to the other side, amid analysts warning of “disturbing” situations.
Frequently, confrontations take place between the two nuclear states across their disputed borders, which extend 3,500 km, without resulting in deaths in decades.
But the Indian army announced on Tuesday that twenty of its soldiers had been killed in the confrontation.
India had announced earlier the killing of three of its soldiers, but it stated in a statement on Tuesday evening that 17 others were “seriously wounded… who died from their wounds, raising the death toll to twenty”.
The Indian army had announced earlier casualties “on both sides” in the incident that took place on Monday, knowing that Beijing did not refer to any dead or injured and was quick to point fingers at New Delhi.
“Senior military officials from both sides are holding a meeting now at the site to calm the situation,” a statement from an Indian military spokesman said.
An Indian army officer stationed in the area denied to AFP that any shooting had taken place in the rugged mountainous region of the Gallowan Valley of strategic importance.
“There was a violent fight in the hands,” said the officer, who asked not to be named.
Beijing confirmed on Tuesday that the accident had taken place, without mentioning any deaths or injuries.
It accused India of going too far and “attacking Chinese elements”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Legian said that Indian soldiers “crossed the border twice… and provoked and attacked Chinese elements, which led to a serious physical confrontation between the border forces on both sides”.
“Once again, we officially request that India take the appropriate position and seize its soldiers on the border,” he said.
The Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava replied to him by saying that the clash resulted from “the Chinese side’s attempt to bring about a unilateral change in the status quo” on the border.
In New York, a UN spokesperson expressed the organization’s concern about this escalation.
“We urge the two sides to exercise maximum restraint,” Eri Canico told reporters, welcoming reports of the two countries’ commitment to calm the situation.
In turn, the United States expressed its hope that China and India will reach a “peaceful solution”.
A spokesman for the US State Department said, “Both India and China have expressed their desire to defuse the escalation, and we support a peaceful solution to the status quo”.
On May 9, several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in hand-to-hand clashes and stones throwing in Nakola, Sikkim, an Indian state bordering Bhutan, Nepal and China.
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced last week that a “positive consensus” on the settlement of the last border issue, had been reached in the wake of “effective contacts” through diplomatic and military channels.
In a later statement, the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the two sides “will continue the military and diplomatic dialogue to settle the situation and ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas”.
But Indian news sources and reports indicated that Chinese forces are still in parts of the Gallowan Valley and in the northern bank of Lake Pangong Tsu that they occupied in recent weeks.
India and China have never reached an agreement on the length of the border’s “de facto control line”, and each resorted to various proposals that Britain presented to China in the nineteenth century to support their demands.
India says the length of the border is 3,500 km. China does not release any figures, but official media say the borders should be 2,000 km when calculating China’s demands in Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and other regions.
Relations between China and India have often been thorny.
They fought a short war in 1962, in which China seized land from India.
This was followed by clashes that killed people in 1967, but the last shooting occurred in 1975.
In 2017, a 72-day standoff occurred after Chinese forces entered the disputed Duclam Plateau, which borders the China-India-Bhutan border.
After that, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinpig sought to ease tension during summit meetings.
Alice Wells, the senior State Department official for South Asian affairs, said last month that China was seeking to destabilize the regional balance and had to be “resisted”.
US President Donald Trump also offered to mediate, but both sides ignored the offer.