Three Indian army personnel, including a commanding officer, have been killed in a “violent face-off” with Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, an Indian army spokesman has said.
The incident on Monday night follows weeks of rising tensions and the deployment of thousands of extra troops from both sides in the region.
“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties. The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers,” the Indian army spokesman said in a statement.
“Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation,” said the statement.
The incident is the first such confrontation between the two Asian giants since 1975 in which soldiers have died.
The Indian army said senior military officials from both sides were meeting to calm the situation.
BREAKING: Army to hold press conf at 2 pm. Reports of 3 soldiers killed in Galwan clash with Chinese. First LAC combat casualties since 1975.
Time for the govt to come clean and stop lying about “disengagement” and “mutual withdrawal”.
A national crisis is no time for deception
— Ajai Shukla (@ajaishukla) June 16, 2020
Tensions flare on a fairly regular basis between the two regional powers over their 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) frontier, which has never been properly demarcated.
Thousands of troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours, backed by armoured trucks and artillery, have been involved in the latest face-off since May in the Ladakh region, bordering Tibet.
Indian officials say Chinese soldiers crossed the boundary at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts and ignoring verbal warnings to leave. That triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights.
Army officers and diplomats have held a series of meetings to try to end the impasse, with no breakthrough.
China accuses India of crossing border
Meanwhile, China accused India of crossing a “disputed border” between the two countries, according to a report by the AFP news agency.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Indian troops crossed the border line twice on Monday, “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides”.
“We again solemnly request that India follows the relevant attitude and restrains its frontline troops,” he said. “Do not cross the border, do not provoke trouble, do not take any unilateral action that would complicate the border situation.”
Beijing has lodged “strong protests and solemn representations” to Delhi, Lijian said, but did not mention any fatalities. India has claimed there had been casualties “on both sides”.
Last week, China said it had reached a “positive consensus” with India over resolving the border tensions through diplomatic and military channels.
In a later statement, India’s foreign ministry had said the two sides would “continue the military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas”.
But sources and Indian news reports suggested that India appeared to have effectively ceded to China areas that the People’s Liberation Army occupied in recent weeks, notably parts of the northern side of the Pangong Tso Lake and some of the strategically important Galwan River valley.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have sought to ease tensions at summits over the past two years when they agreed to boost border communications between their militaries.
Al Jazeera and news agencies