“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties,” according to a statement in the Indian news media that was attributed to Indian military officials. “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.”
In Beijing, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, said that Indian forces had twice crossed the border illegally on Monday and attacked Chinese personnel. He said the Chinese side had “lodged strong protests” but continued to work toward resolving the tensions between the two countries.
Indian television channels reported that several Chinese soldiers had been killed, as well, citing high-level Indian government sources. But Chinese officials did not comment on that. Indian military analysts said that a colonel was among those who had died, the fight had erupted on Indian territory and it had involved a large number of troops from each side battling with rocks, clubs and their hands.
“This was an incident waiting to happen,” said H.S. Panag, a retired Indian general. “We were warning that the P.L.A. has come in, intruded in our area, and they were prepared for a limited border conflict or skirmishes,” he said, referring to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. “The situation was simmering since the last week of April.”
The violence is a continuation of a long-running dispute between India and China about the precise location of their jagged Himalayan border, known as the Line of Actual Control. In 1962, the two countries went to war over this line, which cuts through a desolate, sparsely inhabited landscape of rock and ice. Both sides maintain high-altitude military installations facing each other, and armed skirmishes continued through the late 1960s and mid-’70s, military analysts said.
The spark for the recent tensions seemed to have been a road to a remote air force base that the Indian Army is building through mountain passes in the Galwan Valley more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Military analysts say that the road is fully within Indian territory but that the Chinese are determined to frustrate India’s efforts to upgrade its military positions.