First deadly military confrontation between India and China in 45 years

Twenty Indian soldiers perished in a confrontation with the Chinese army overnight Monday to Tuesday on the disputed border in Ladakh, north India, the first deadly military clash in 45 years between the two Asian giants. The Indian military first announced on Tuesday the death of an officer and two soldiers, citing deaths “on both sides”. In the evening, she reported on 17 others “seriously injured on the field of honor” who had “died of their injuries”. China has cited “dead and wounded”, without specifying which side, and accused India of being responsible for the incident.

India’s foreign ministry replied with its spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, blaming the confrontation on China through “an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo” at the border. An Indian soldier based in the region assured the AFP that there had been no exchange of fire. “No firearm was used. There were violent close combat, “said the source, who requested anonymity because she is not allowed to speak to the press.

Troops of the two nuclear powers have been engaged since the beginning of May in several face-to-face meetings stretched along their common border, mainly in Ladakh, and have sent thousands of soldiers as reinforcements. A crisis that the parties claim, however, to resolve through diplomatic channels.

Following talks between generals of the two armies ten days ago, a process of military disengagement had started in some of the disputed areas of the high altitude region of Ladakh. “During the ongoing de-escalation process in the Galwan Valley, a violent confrontation occurred last night and claimed lives on both sides,” an Indian army spokesman said on Tuesday.

For his part, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, accused Indian troops of having “crossed the border twice, before engaging in illegal activities and provoking and attacking Chinese soldiers, resulting in a serious physical confrontation. ” Chinese army spokesman Zhang Shuili said in a statement issued by the defense ministry that the incident resulted in “deaths and injuries”. He did not specify their number or nationality.

Climbing fears

The last deadly altercation between Indian and Chinese soldiers dates from 1975, when four Indian soldiers lost their lives in Arunachal Pradesh (east). No bullet has been fired over the Indo-Chinese border since. High ranking officers from both sides are currently talking on the spot to defuse the situation, according to the Indian army press release.

In New York, a spokesperson for the United Nations expressed the organization’s concern. “We urge the two sides to exercise maximum restraint,” Eri Kaneko told the media, welcoming reports of the two countries’ commitment to calm the situation.

In early May, clashes with punches, stones and sticks had notably opposed soldiers from the two countries in the Sikkim region (east of India), leaving several wounded. Chinese troops had also advanced into areas considered by India to be on its territory in Ladakh, prompting New Delhi to dispatch reinforcements to the region.

If the situation “is not properly managed, it could escalate into something much bigger than we initially imagined,” Harsh V Pant, an analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, told AFP. . “China, with its better infrastructure, its superior military capabilities, may think that it is time to push India, to see how far India will go,” he said.

India and China have had longstanding territorial disputes in the areas of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Confrontations in mountainous areas between Indian and Chinese armies have become more frequent in recent years, which the Trump administration sees as a sign of increasing Chinese aggressiveness in Asia.

In 2017, Indian and Chinese soldiers spent more than two months facing each other on a strategic Himalayan plateau in the Bhutan region. Talks had led to military disengagement from the two sides. The last open conflict between the two most populous nations on the planet dates back to the Flash War of 1962, which saw Indian troops quickly defeated by the Chinese army.

Washington hopes for “peaceful solution”

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