India says 20 soldiers killed on disputed Himalayan border with China

Source: The Guardian | By Sajjad Quazi | Published on 16th June 2020, 11:00 PM | National News | Global News |

Twenty members of India’s armed forces have been killed in a “violent face-off” with Chinese soldiers on their disputed Himalayan border, raising tensions in the already volatile region.

The deaths are the first loss of life in the border area in at least 45 years and come amid a renewed dispute between the two countries in recent weeks. Indian and Chinese soldiers, who often do not carry weapons in the area to avoid escalating conflicts, have brawled, detained each other and deployed forces and equipment in the western Himalayas in recent weeks.

“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galway Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday [Monday] night with casualties on both sides,” the Indian army said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon Delhi-time.

It said, “senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation”.

Tensions between the two sides had been escalating since late April, after China’s encroachment of thousands of troops into disputed territory along the Line Of Actual Control (LAC), who set up camps and brought over artillery and vehicles and caught India off-guard. Chinese soldiers ignored repeated verbal warnings to leave, triggering shouting matches, stone-throwing, and fistfights in key border areas, but on 6 June there was a meeting of senior Indian and Chinese military commanders and a commitment to disengagement were made on both sides.

However, tensions remained high as Chinese troops had still not withdrawn from certain areas of the disputed territory, including Galwan Valley. The fatal clashes late on Monday night took place at Patrolling Point 14 at the Galway Valley when an Indian commanding officer had reportedly approached Chinese troops, who had stood their ground.

A violent altercation broke out between the two sides, with stones and wooden rods used as weapons, though no shots were fired. It has been reported, but not confirmed by Chinese officials, that at least seven Chinese soldiers were also killed.

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