India-China clash: Two sides blame each other for deadly fighting
China and India have accused each other of provoking fighting in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a disputed Himalayan border area.
Soldiers reportedly brawled with sticks, bats and bamboo sticks studded with nails in the late-night confrontation in the Ladakh region on Monday.
However, no shots were fired.
India’s army said that both sides suffered casualties. China confirmed the incident but did not give details.
The Indian statement notes that injured soldiers were “exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain”.
It is the first deadly clash between the two sides in the border area, in the disputed Kashmir region, in at least 45 years.
India said China had tried to “unilaterally change the status quo”. Beijing accused Indian troops of “attacking Chinese personnel”.
The two armies later held talks to try to defuse tensions.
The fighting occurred in the precipitous, rocky terrain of the strategically important Galwan Valley, which lies between China’s Tibet and India’s Ladakh.
Indian media say soldiers engaged in direct hand-to-hand combat, with some “beaten to death”. During the fight, one newspaper reported, others fell or were pushed into a river.
The Indian army initially said a colonel and two soldiers had died. It later said that “17 Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty” and died from their injuries, taking the “total that were killed in action to 20”.
Both sides insist no bullet has been fired in four decades, and the Indian army said on Tuesday that “no shots were fired” in this latest skirmish.
India’s foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the clash arose from “an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo” on the border.
China did not confirm the number of casualties, but accused India in turn of crossing the border onto the Chinese side.
The clash has provoked protests in India, with people burning Chinese flags.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been under pressure to publicly address the issue, including from Rahul Gandhi, former leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party.
In a tweet, Mr Modi called for an all-party meeting on Friday to discuss the situation, but did not make any other comment on the confrontation.
Meanwhile, India Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted on Wednesday: “The loss of soldiers in Galwan is deeply disturbing and painful.
“Our soldiers displayed exemplary courage and valour in the line of duty and sacrificed their lives in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.” BBC