China and India Blame Each Other for Deadly Fighting

China and India 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 clash in the Ladakh region on Monday.

But both sides insist no shots were fired, as part of a longstanding pact.

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.


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What happened?

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".

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. "

China did not confirm the number of casualties, but accused India of crossing the border onto the Chinese side.

China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday it wanted to avoid further clashes and reiterated that it was not to blame.

This is not the first time the two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought without conventional firearms on the border. India and China have a history of face-offs and overlapping territorial claims along the more than 3,440km (2,100 mile), poorly drawn Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating the two sides.