A total of 20 members of India’s armed forces have been killed in a violent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh, according to a statement by the Indian military.
"Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed on the night of 15/16 June 2020," said the Army's statement.
The army originally reported that three Indian soldiers had died, but later said 17 additional soldiers succumbed to injuries they suffered in the sub-zero temperatures of the high-altitude terrain.
"Indian Army is firmly committed to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation," it added.
The clash follows weeks of rising tensions and the deployment of thousands of extra troops from both sides.
It was the first deadly confrontation between the two Asian giants since 1975. Skirmishes erupt regularly between the two nuclear-armed powers across their disputed 3,500-kilometer (2,200-mile) frontier, but no one has been killed in decades.
China, for its part, accused Indian forces along the border of carrying out “provocative attacks” on its troops, leading to “serious physical conflicts” between the sides. The Chinese military suffered casualties in a border clash with Indian soldiers, the editor-in-chief of China's Global Times newspaper said Tuesday. "Based on what I know, the Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash," Hu Xijin said in a tweet. He did not give further details.
India and China have been locked in a standoff in the Galwan valley in the western Himalayas for weeks, with both accusing each other of trespassing into their territory. Talks to pull back hundreds of troops deployed in the remote region have been held over the last 10 days but no breakthrough has emerged.
On May 9, several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in a clash involving fists and stone-throwing at Naku La in India's Sikkim state, which borders Bhutan, Nepal and China. But the Chinese foreign ministry said only last week that a "positive consensus" had been reached following "effective communication" through diplomatic and military channels. In a later statement, India's foreign ministry said the two sides would "continue with military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas." However, Indian sources and news reports suggested that Chinese troops remained in parts of the Galwan Valley and of the northern shore of the Pangong Tso lake that it occupied in recent weeks.
India and China have never agreed on how long their "Line of Actual Control" frontier is, with each side using different frontier proposals made by Britain to China in the 19th century to back their claims. India gives a figure of 3,500 kilometers. China does not give a number, but state media says the border should be just 2,000 km when China's claims in Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and other regions are taken into account.
Relations between China and India have long been prickly. India and China fought a brief border war in 1962, and have been unable to settle their border dispute despite talks spread over two decades. Border guards have had skirmishes, even fisticuffs when patrols have confronted each other, but there has been no loss of life at the border since bloody clashes erupted in the eastern Himalayas in 1967. The last deadly shot fired was in 1975.