Indian officer, 2 soldiers killed in ‘violent face-off’ on border with China
By Sarwar Kashani
New Delhi, June 16 (efe-epa).- India on Tuesday said an army officer and two soldiers were killed during a violent face-off with Chinese troops near the Himalayan border in the high-altitude region of Ladakh, where the two countries have accused each other of trespass in a weeks-long boundary impasse.
The clash took place during the deescalation process in the Galwan Valley, one of the standoff points in the eastern Ladakh sector, an official statement from the Indian Army said.
“A violent face-off took place yesterday (Monday) night with casualties on both sides. The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers,” the statement said, reporting first casualties in decades from a border dispute between the two regional rivals.
The statement said senior military officials from the two sides were currently meeting at the venue “to defuse the situation”.
China blamed the Indian troops for the violent clash and called on New Delhi not to stir up trouble by taking any unilateral action in the disputed region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing that the two sides had a high-level meeting and reached an “important consensus on easing the border situation”.
“But astonishingly on June 15, the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the borderline for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides,” the spokesperson said.
“China has lodged strong protest and representation with the Indian side. We once again solemnly ask the Indian side to follow our consensus, strictly regulate its front-line troops and do not cross the line, do not stir up troubles, or make unilateral moves that may complicate matters.”
The Chinese spokesperson said the two sides “agree to resolve this issue through dialogue and consultation and make efforts for easing the situation and upholding the peace and security along the border area.”
The two nuclear-powered neighbors have been locked in a bitter border standoff simmering for weeks now after India allegedly started constructing roads and an airstrip in the disputed region, which is also claimed by Pakistan.
There have been reports of the two sides reinforcing their defenses on the de-facto border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC), raising fears about an extended standoff between the two countries that fought a brief border war in 1962.
The boundary line, not recognized as an international border, demarcates Indian-held and Chinese-held disputed territory of what was once part of the Tibet region.
The border dispute dates back to the 1962 war that ended in a truce with the two sides sticking to their claims along the mountainous 3,500 km (nearly 2,175 miles) border.
There have been several border face-offs between the two in the last six decades but almost all of them ended peacefully. The latest is the first that caused casualties after a 1975 clash along the LAC in the Tawang area of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, also claimed by China.
Mohan Guruswamy, a defense and strategic affairs expert, told EFE that the situation after the Monday clash could go out of control if not deescalated soon.
“Any soldier dying in a border clash is serious. But both sides are highlighting that there were no arms used and that suggests that it didn’t go out of control,” Guruswamy said.
He noted that the Galwan Valley was the only place where the Chinese side had accepted LAC demarcation as a hitherto undisputed area.
“Then there was some problem in their withdrawal. But three people dying and many more getting injured is serious. The passions are inflamed,” he said.
Guruswamy said that “some small misunderstanding” may have caused the violence.