China accused India of “deliberate provocation” in its first official comment on the bloody clash that took place Monday between forces of the two sides in the Gallowan region of Ladakh State, the disputed border in the Himalayas.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Legian Zhao said that Indian forces crossed the border into Chinese territory and carried out the attack, which led to “violent physical confrontations.”
But he did not give any details regarding the deaths or injuries among the Chinese soldiers.
It was reported that soldiers from both sides clashed with sticks and batons without shooting, and each side accused the other party of being the one who started the fighting.
On Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed that the Indian border had not been crossed by any foreign forces, and there had been no penetration of the borders or loss of territory.
Modi pledged that India would defend its borders with military force if necessary.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash in the Gallowan Valley. Although China has not reported any casualties among its forces, India has said that the clash has resulted in loss of life on both sides.
What is the Chinese version of events?
Legian Zhao said in a series of tweets on Twitter that the Gallowan Valley was mainly on the Chinese side of the actual observation line, which is the poorly drawn border line between the two Asian neighbors that possess nuclear weapons.
The Chinese spokesman added that the clash took place at a time of reduced tension on the border after India demolished infrastructure facilities it had built on the Chinese side of the actual control line in May, and withdrew its elements following an agreement between Chinese and Indian officers.
However, Indian forces “crossed again” the actual observation line on June 15, in a deliberate provocation at a time when tension in the Gallowan Valley was already receding, “Zhao added.
“The Indian front-line forces launched a violent attack on the Chinese officers and soldiers who went there to negotiate, resulting in fierce physical clashes and loss of life,” Zhao said.
He added that India had started building “roads, bridges and other facilities” in the actual Line of Control area since April.
What did the Indian Prime Minister say about that?
Indian Prime Minister Narinda Modi announced in a televised statement Friday that there had been no incursion into Indian territory.
“No one has intruded on our borders, no one is there now, and our sites have not been seized,” he said.
He added that the Indian Armed Forces “were given full authority to take the necessary steps” to protect Indian territory.
“The country is angry and abused in the whole country as a result of the steps taken by China,” he added. “India wants peace and friendship, but preserving sovereignty comes first.”
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The Indian government blamed China for the clash, and the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the clash erupted after “the Chinese side began building a facility in the Glwan Valley on our side of the actual control line.”
Media reports said that the clashes took place on Monday, on mountain hills more than 4,200 meters high and at temperatures as low as minus zero, and that some soldiers are believed to have fallen into the fast-flowing Glwan River.
It is not entirely known how many soldiers participated in the clash, but a prominent Indian army official told the BBC that 55 Indian soldiers were facing 300 Chinese soldiers, but the BBC could not verify his account.
“They beat our children on the head with metal clubs wrapped in barbed wire,” the Indian officer said, describing the Chinese as “death squads.”
On Tuesday evening, the Indian army confirmed that 17 of the soldiers who died “were seriously injured due to their due performance at the site of the confrontation and that they were subjected to sub-zero temperatures in the high region.” It is believed that some of the soldiers died due to their injuries, as they were unable to survive the freezing temperatures during the night.
Initial reports had indicated that some Indian soldiers were missing, but officials say all those involved in the clash have been found.
What is the reason for the absence of weapons?
An agreement reached between the two sides in 1996 prohibits weapons and explosives within two kilometers of the actual observation line along the disputed border to prevent the situation from escalating.
It is noteworthy that China and India are the two largest countries in the world in terms of population and they have the two largest armies by number of individuals. The two countries also have nuclear missiles, so the arms embargo is seen as a way to prevent accidents from spinning out of control.
The two countries have a history of confrontation and overlapping regional demands along more than 3,440 kilometers of borders that were poorly drawn to separate the two countries in what is known as the actual monitoring line. The two countries fought a short war in 1962 that ended in a humiliating defeat for India. Since that date, a number of violent confrontations occurred, most notably in 1975 when a skirmish resulted in the killing of four Indian soldiers.
No bullet has been fired since that date. However, tensions have been escalating along the border in recent weeks. Last May, Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged punches at the border in Lake Pangong District, Ladakh District and in Indias northeastern Sikkim state hundreds of miles to the east.
India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers of its territory, accusing Beijing of escalating tension by sending thousands of soldiers to the Gallowan Valley in Ladakh State.
As for China, it indicates that India is also building roads and implementing projects for basic facilities in the region.
Ajay Shukla, an Indian military expert, told the BBC last May that “Gallowan has become the hot spot because it is the place where the actual observation line is closest to the new road that India has built along the remote and dangerous area along the actual observation line in Ladakh. ”