There were losses on both sides of the battle as one of the Indian army’s officers and two soldiers were killed in a “violent faceoff” at Galwan Valley, one of the four clash points in the eastern Ladakh sector. These are the first reported casualties in decades to result from a clash between the nuclear-armed Asian giants. China has not yet confirmed the deaths or numbers of injured. India’s army said on Tuesday senior military officials from both sides were meeting in a desperate bid to calm tensions.
The Indian army statement said: “Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation.”
Talks to pull back hundreds of troops deployed in the remote region have been held over the last ten days but no breakthrough had emerged.
Indian government sources said no shots were fired but a physical fight broke out between the two sides with soldiers using batons and throwing stones, which resulted in the casualties.
The Indian army confirmed there had been an incident on Monday and both sides had suffered casualties.
The army said: “During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties on both sides.
“The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers. Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation.”
Sources said the officer who died was a colonel rank.
But mystery surrounds the situation after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday he was not aware of any incident on the border with India after the Indian army.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times newspaper tweeted: “Based on what I know, the Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash.”
He then sent a chilling warning to India, adding:”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.”
The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
Responding to the news retired US Army colonel Lawrence Sellin tweeted telling China not to push India.
He said: “China – Don’t mess with India. Despite the tragic Indian losses, the Indian Army deliveries punishing casualties on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army aggressors.”
While Kashmir journalist, Aditya Raj Kaul posted: “Unofficial reports say China has lost 4-5 People’s Liberation Army soldiers after their violent provocation yesterday in Eastern Ladakh.
“Considering they’ve been hiding their #COVID19 cases and deaths, one can imagine the manipulation in the casualties they faced in a border clash.”
He added: “Casualties sadly could increase in Ladakh. Still a very fluid situation since some soldiers are seriously injured. Waiting for more official updates.”
The two sides have been locked in a standoff in the Galwan valley in the western Himalayas for weeks with both accusing each other of trespassing into the other’s territory.
India and China fought a brief border war in 1962 and have not been unable to settle their border dispute despite talks spread over two decades.
Border guards have had skirmishes, even fistfights when patrols have confronted each other, but there has been no loss of life for more than 30 years.
The Chinese foreign ministry called on India not to take any unilateral action or stir up trouble.
A ministry spokesman in Bejing said there was a major violation of the consensus reached by the two countries when Indian troops provoked and attacked Chinese personnel, leading to a serious physical conflict.
The Asian giants have rival claims to vast swathes of territory along their mountainous 3,500 km (2,173 mile) border, but the disputes have remained largely peaceful since the 1962 war.
Indian military officials said previously Chinese soldiers had entered into India’s side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or the de facto border at several locations in early May.
China denies it breached the LAC, as the 3,488 km de facto border is known, and says there is stability in the area near the Galwan River and Pangong Tso lake in the remote snow deserts of India’s Ladakh region.
One possible trigger for frictions is India’s construction of a road near the Galwan valley to narrow the gap with China’s superior network of roads that it built years ago, Indian and foreign military experts say. China is opposed to any Indian construction in the area, saying it is disputed territory.
Since then both sides have held talks but there had been no breakthrough.
Soldiers have been billeted in tents and both sides have brought in artillery and other heavy equipment to back them up, Indian officials said. India also started construction of an emergency landing strip near the main highway of Kashmir which adjoins Ladakh.
Former Indian army commander D S Hooda said: “This is extremely, extremely serious, this is going to vitiate whatever dialogue was going on.”
India’s main stock indexes gave up early gains to fall as much as 0.8 per cent after the news, but were last up around 0.2 per cent by 8.58 am, while the rupee weakened to 76.1 against the dollar.
It comes after India and China agreed to resolve a dispute over their shared border in the Ladakh region through diplomatic channels earlier this month.
Indian officials said both sides would first focus on getting both the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army to pull back additional troops and equipment deployed in the area.
At the time both sides said they were working to “properly resolve relevant issues,” while maintaining close communication through diplomatic and military channels.
Both sides recalled the consensus reached by their two leaders that peaceful, stable and balanced relations between India and China would be positive for stability in the current global situation.