Indian officials say at least 20 soldiers were killed in a violent clash with Chinese troops at the Himalayan border on June 15. Indian Army sources had initially confirmed three dead after the conflict but increased their count after numerous critically wounded soldiers died, the BBC reported. Chinese officials have not confirmed any casualties, according to the outlet.
The Indian Defence Ministry confirmed the casualties – an Indian colonel and two Jawans, or soldiers – in a statement to Mumbai Mirror.
The incident occurred at Galwan Valley, in the disputed region of Kashmir in Ladakh, amid attempts to mitigate violence, in what the Indian media is calling a “massive escalation in the middle of efforts to defuse weeks of tension at the border.”
According to media outlet NDTV, the men died “on Indian territory” in a physical fight involving stones and batons.
It is the first loss of life that has occurred between the two sides since 1975, NDTV reported.
The two countries “have been locked in a decades-long stalemate over their competing claims to long, uninhabited stretches of the [Himalayan] mountain range,” according to The Guardian.
Senior military officials were meeting at the location to discuss potential solutions, the Mumbai Mirror said.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Chinese Foreign Ministry Accused India of ‘Twice Crossing the Border & Attacking Chinese Personnel’
In Beijing, “Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not confirm the casualties but accused India of twice crossing the border and attacking Chinese personnel,” The Hindu said today.
The Hindu reported that Lijian said consensus had been reached between the sides following a meeting on June 6, but “astonishingly on June 15 the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel, which led to serious physical conflict.”
The Indian-Chinese border experienced at least four separate incidents along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) during April and May, according to The Hindu.
A statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 19 said “the Indian Army has crossed the line across the western section of the Sino-Indian border and the Sikkim section to enter Chinese territory.”
The areas that have been impacted by tensions since April “between the Chinese and Indian troops, including the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel,” included Sikkim’s Naku La pass, Pangong Tso lake, Demchok and the Galwan River, according to The Hindu. The Hindu also reported, “Face-off and stand-off situations occur along the LAC in areas where India and China have overlapping claim lines. The LAC has never been demarcated.”
Days before the recent incident, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Naravane said both sides had “begun disengaging from Galwan Valley,” according to the Mumbai Mirror.
The new developments come as tensions between North and South Korea reach boiling point. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his sister, Kim Yo Jong, are threatening to send the army into the demilitarized zone dividing the North and South, due to the ongoing distribution of anti-regime leaflets. According to the BBC, South Korea promised “to prevent the leaflets being flown over the border as part of the inter-Korean agreement between President Moon and Kim Jong Un in 2018.”
World War 3 Trended on Twitter After the News Broke
Some Twitter users expressed shock to find “World War Three” trending on Twitter following the recent events at the border:
Using the term “Nuclear-armed Asian giants” in reference to Asia and India, British tabloid Express reported on what they called “a chilling warning” issued to India by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times newspaper.
“Based on what I know, Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash. I want to tell the Indian side, don’t be arrogant and misread China’s restraint as being weak. China doesn’t want to have a clash with India, but we don’t fear it,” Xijin said.
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Sellin tweeted, urging China, “Don’t mess with India” and calling China an “intruder and provocateur … Aksai Chin has always been recognized internationally as Indian territory.”
Kashmir journalist Aditya Raj Kaul accused China of “violent provocation.”
“Considering they’ve been hiding their #COVID19 cases and deaths, one can imagine the manipulation in the casualties they faced in border clash,” he wrote:
Kaul said 36 Indian soldiers were captured at the border in the incident.
High-level security talks were held June 16 at Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s residence, with officials including CDS General Bipin Rawat and Indian Army Chief Naravane in attendance, Kaul said.