India says 3 soldiers killed in standoff with Chinese troops

SRINAGAR, India (AP) - At least three Indian soldiers died in a confrontation between Indian and Chinese troops along the two nations' controversial Himalayan border in a region where thousands of soldiers on either side of the Indian army have said for more than a month Tuesday.
The clash, in which, according to Indian officials, neither side fired a shot, is the first deadly confrontation between the two Asian giants since 1975.
The Indian army said in a statement that a "violent clash" took place on Monday evening in the Galwan Valley in the Ladakh region, "with victims on both sides".
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"The loss of life on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers," the statement said. "High-ranking military officials from both sides are currently meeting on site to defuse the situation."
China, for its part, accused the Indian armed forces along the border of carrying out "provocative attacks" on its troops, leading to "serious physical conflicts" between the sides.
State Department spokesman Zhao Lijian did not disclose details of the victims on the Chinese side, but said that China has protested the incident while continuing to campaign for "peace and quiet" along the controversial and heavily militarized side Engage limit.
"However, it is shocking that on June 15, Indian troops seriously violated the bilateral consensus, illegally crossed the border twice, and carried out provocative attacks on Chinese personnel, leading to serious physical conflicts between the two border forces," said Zhao .
Thousands of soldiers from both countries, supported by armored trucks and artillery, have been in the Ladakh region near Tibet just a few hundred meters apart for more than a month. Army officers and diplomats have held a number of meetings to end the impasse without a breakthrough.
The Indian authorities have officially maintained almost complete silence on the confrontation issues and it was not immediately clear how the three Indian soldiers died.
Two Indian security officials, familiar with the latest developments, told The Associated Press that soldiers on both sides were pugilists and stone throwing, leading to the casualties. Both said that no shots were fired from either side. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity according to government regulations.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not comment on the clash in a television conversation with state officials on Tuesday.
The tense standoff began in early May when Indian officials said Chinese soldiers crossed the Ladakh border at three different points, set up tents and guard posts, and ignored verbal warnings to leave. This sparked screaming matches, stone throws and fist fights, much of which were repeated on television news channels and social media.
China has tried to downplay the confrontation while saying that both sides have communicated through both their front-line military units and their respective embassies to solve problems.
The controversial border encompasses almost 3,500 kilometers of border, which the two countries call the line of actual control.
Although skirmishes at the border are not new, the stalemate in the Ladwan-Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region with an airstrip near China, has increased in recent weeks.
India and China waged a border war in 1962, which also led to Ladakh. The two countries have tried unsuccessfully to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s.
Since then, soldiers from both sides have frequently lined up along the border that stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the northeast.
Lt. Gen. DS Hooda, a former chief of the Indian Military Northern Command, which includes Kashmir and Ladakh, said the incident was the "most serious confrontation" between India and China since 1975, when Chinese troops killed four Indian soldiers in an ambush in one country Twang region in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
"It is a very complicated and serious situation and real, hard negotiating skills will be required to resolve this," said Hooda.
Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia, a former director general of Indian military operations, said the incident was "serious but local".
"Such incidents can happen, especially when there are (enemy) soldiers close by," he said.
The Indian army statement said that the "violent clash" took place "during the de-escalation process in the Galwan Valley".
Indian officials say Chinese soldiers cross more than 500 borders each year. China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in northeastern India, while India says that China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas, an adjacent part of the Ladakh region.
India unilaterally declared Ladakh federal territory and separated it from the controversial Kashmir in August 2019. China was one of the few countries to condemn this move and raise it in international forums such as the United States Security Council.
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Follow Aijaz Hussain on Twitter at twitter.com/hussain_aijaz

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