India-China Border Tension Escalates as 3 Indian Soldiers Die in Clashes in Ladakh

India says there have been casualties on both sides; Beijing says the clash followed Indian provocation.

Three Indian soldiers including an officer were killed during a violent clash with the Chinese soldiers on Monday night, escalating the simmering tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. The causalities on the Indian side included the Commanding Officer of an Infantry battalion, a Junior Commissioned Officer and a soldier. India said there have been casualties on the Chinese side as well.

Galwan Valley, Ladakh
Galwan Valley, Ladakh, India Twitter

The incident has further fueled the ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two nations in eastern Ladakh. Hundreds of Indian soldiers have been stationed in the snow desert after Chinese troops entered and set up their camp inside the Indian side of the de facto border in early May.

De-Escalation Process

The clash took place during the de-escalation process initiated by India and China, following the intrusion of Chinese troops in the area more than a month ago. In an official statement, the Army said: "During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday (Monday) night with casualties. The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers."

Even though the authorities refrained from commenting on what caused the fatal clash, the statement said that a meeting between senior military officials of the two countries is underway at the venue to defuse the situation. Last week, Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane had said that disengagement was in progress.

The latest spate of tension between India and China triggered after China opposed India's road laying in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake as well as the construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley. Reportedly the Indian side also expressed its displeasure over Chinese plans of laying a road in the Finger area.

China Accuses India of Triggering Clash

According to AFP, even as the Indian side said there were casualties on both sides, China made no mention of the same. AFP quoted an unnamed army officer posted in the area stating that there had been no shooting. "There was no firing. No firearms were used. It was violent hand-to-hand scuffles," the officer told the agency.

Confirming the incident, Beijing accused India of taking the lead and attacking the Chinese personnel by crossing the international border. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Indian troops crossed the border twice on Monday, provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides. Beijing has lodged "strong protests and solemn representations" to Delhi, he added.

Quoting government sources, India Today reported that military reinforcements including troops, vehicles and artillery guns were dispatched to eastern Ladakh by the Indian Army to bolster its presence in the areas where Chinese soldiers were resorting to aggressive tactics.

On May 5, a viral video clip emerged from the area showing around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers engaging in a violent face-off. The situation simmered down after both the sides decided to disengage, even as the stand-off sustained.