A brutal battle using hand-to-hand combat broke out between Chinese and Indian soldiers, resulting in 63 being injured or killed at the Himalayan border.
The Indian army confirmed yesterday a ‘violent face-off with casualties on both sides’ took place on Monday night in the Galwan Valley in the northern Ladakh state.
The army initially only reported two deaths, but have now announced 20 soldiers were killed including a colonel, reports MailOnline. India’s military statement yesterday said: ‘During the de-escalation process in Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place last night with casualties.
‘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.’
The two sides have apparently now ‘disengaged’ from the battle, but both countries remain locked in a conflict over territory. China has not commented on the deaths, but confirmed 43 casualties without saying how many exactly of that number had died.
Among the dead was Colonel B. Santosh Babu, commanding officer of the 16 Bihar regiment. His mother Manjula told the New Indian Express: ‘I lost my son, I cannot bear it. But he died for the country and that makes me happy and proud.’
The incident is the first such confrontation between the two countries since the 1975 Arunachal ambush, during which four Indian soldiers were killed along the disputed border, known as the Line of Actual Control.
Tensions have flared between the two nuclear-armed nations in recent months, but these are the first fatalities in decades. It was reported no shots were fired in the battle, but soldiers attacked each other with sticks and batons on the Indian side of the border.
The deaths come after several clashes along the 2,175 mile border, over which the two sides fought the 1962 Sino-Indian War. India suffered a humiliating defeat.
Dozens of Chinese and Indian soldiers were injured in fistfights and stone-throwing in Sikkim state on May 9, leaving many Indian soldiers hospitalised for weeks.
And in another incident days later, footage emerged which purported to show a Chinese soldier being beaten by Indian forces on the banks of Pangong Lake, a mile into Indian territory in Ladakh.
India’s army chief General Manoj Naravane downplayed the ‘temporary and short-duration face-offs.’
One reason for the heightened tension could be a new road built to Daulat Beg Oldi, the world’s highest airstrip and the site of an intense Sino-Indian dispute in 2013.
The road allows for the rapid and vast movement of Indian troops into the region. India says China is occupying 38,000 square km of its territory, but China claims Indian troops have been trespassing on Chinese land.