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Reports: Chinese, Indian soldiers kill each other in giant brawl at border

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capablities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011. Mullen is on a three-day trip to the country meeting with counterparts and Chinese leaders. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)
June 16, 2020

At least three Indian soldiers were killed after a “violent face-off” with China along a disputed border region in the Himalayas on Monday.

According to an Indian army statement reported by NDTV, one Indian officer and two soldiers were killed in the clash, marking the first violent incident between India and China involving fatalities since 1975.

“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties on both sides,” the Indian army statement said. “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.”

NDTV reported claims the brawl began after Chinese soldiers threw stones at and attacked the Indian officer, identified as Col. B. Santosh Babu. Indian soldiers then reportedly entered the fray, which lasted several hours.

The incident occurred in the Galwan Valley of the Ladakh region, which has been the site of a growing dispute which began on May 5 and has seen troops from both sides positioning troops in response to troop buildups from the other side.

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China also indicated it sustained several deaths and injuries in the border clash. Wang Wenwen, a reporter for the Chinese state-media outlet Global Times tweeted that five Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers were killed.

“Reports say 5 PLA soldiers were killed and 11 were injured at LAC China-India border yesterday,” she tweeted.

After her initial Tweet, Wenwen indicated the deaths were not the result of weapons fired, but of hand-to-hand fighting.

“No bullets were fired. It is hand-to-hand combat…” she tweeted.

At a Tuesday press conference reported by The Hindustan Times, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed the Indian soldiers violated the established border agreements and instigated the clash.

“Our border troops had a high-level meeting and reached important consensus on easing the border situation,” Zhao said of the incident. “But astonishingly on June 15, the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides.”

Zhao went on to claim China was committed to maintaining “peace and tranquility” along the disputed border. He also offered no specifics about claims of injuries on the Chinese side of the dispute.

India has also accused China of illicit border crossings earlier on in their weeks-long dispute.

The border between India and China has been disputed since the early 1990s. In 2017, Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed along another stretch of the border in the Himalayan region. Video at the time emerged of Indian and Chinese soldiers brawling and throwing stones at each other.