An Indian Army officer and two soldiers were killed along the disputed India-China border on Monday night when a violent face-off took place with Chinese troops, the Indian Army said in a statement.
The first deaths at the India-China border since 1975 come amid growing tensions between the world’s two most populous countries, with Beijing under pressure on multiple fronts, analysts told HuffPost India.
“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday 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 Indian Army’s statement read.
China’s foreign ministry, when asked about Indian army reporting casualties, said it calls on India to not take unilateral actions or stir up trouble, according to Reuters.
State-run Global Times quoted the foreign ministry spokesperson as saying: “Indian troops on Monday seriously violated the consensus of the two sides by illegally crossing the border twice and carrying out provocative attacks on Chinese soldiers, resulting in serious physical clashes.”
“China has lodged solemn representations with the Indian side and urged it to strictly restrain its frontline troops from crossing the border or taking any unilateral action that may complicate the border situation,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was quoted as saying.
According to AFP, India has claimed that there were casualties on both sides.
Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane had said Saturday that disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops is taking place in a “phased manner” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is the Himalayan border between India and China.
Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor at JNU’s Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at the School of International Studies, told HuffPost India that the killing of the Indian army personnel in the Galwan Valley is a clear enough indication that China doesn’t seek a de-escalation with India without meeting its territorial objectives in the area.
“The BJP government can no longer hide behind the platitude that ‘no bullet has been fired’ between the two sides. It would have to come clean on the state of affairs with China on the LAC and be ready to take resolute action to safeguard the country’s sovereignty. The time for denials is over,” he added.
Sushant Singh wrote for The Indian Express that the last deaths on the India-China border were in 1975 when an Indian patrol was ambushed by the Chinese soldiers on the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh.
The standoff, The Hindu reported, began with a scuffle in the Pangong Tso area and there was another scuffle on May 9 at Naku La in Sikkim.
The news comes at a time when India is battling multiple crises—while it is trying to handle the coronavirus pandemic (the country is currently fourth in the world with 343,091 reported cases), it is also embroiled in a territory dispute with hitherto peaceful neighbor Nepal.