The Indian army has confirmed that at least 20 of its soldiers have died after a clash in the Himalayan Mountains on Monday.
“Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed on the night of 15/16 June,” the Indian army said in a statement. “17 Indian troops were critically injured in the line of duty…and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20.”
The statement came hours after the Indian authorities first announced that three of its troops had been killed in the confrontation.
The incident marks the first time since 1975 that Indian soldiers were killed in clashes with China’s People’s Liberation Army. Indian officials told the Associated Press that the recent clash involved fistfights and stone-throwing, without the use of any firearms. Troop regulations along the border prevent each side from manning border posts with firearms.
India said the clash was started “as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo” at the border, while China Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that “Indian troops seriously violated the consensus of the two sides, crossed the border illegally twice and carried out provocative attacks on Chinese personnel.”
China has been building up its troop presence in the Galwan Valley since April. The region sits on the border of Tibet and the Ladakh region, which is part of the Indian province of Kashmir and is the subject of a long-running territorial dispute involving India, China, and Pakistan. Previous clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley led to the Sino-Indian War of 1962.