Indian media NDTV confirms 20 Indian soldiers died in a “violent faceoff” Tuesday on the contested border with China, the first such incident in decades between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
The number of Chinese fatalities remains unclear. “So many deaths without no exchange of fire is hard to believe (though some reports suggest fatal bullet wounds),” tweeted South Asia analyst Michael Kugelman associated with Washington-based Wilson Center.
“This is the biggest blow to China-India ties in years”.
Leading defense experts in New Delhi fear that the jostling could turn into an unintended full-blown military action.
An an Indian media personality tweeted, “May there be no escalation in this conflict that has a massive possibility of spiraling out of control to become very dangerous”.
The two Asian giants have rival claims to vast swathes of territory along their 3,500 kilometers Himalayan border, but the disputes have remained largely peaceful since a border war in 1962. They have been locked in a standoff in the western Himalayas for weeks now, though there had been no casualties on either side.
The latest incident took place in Galwan Valley in the mountainous region of Ladakh, the Indian army said in a statement.
Senior military officials from both sides were said to be meeting to defuse the situation.
According to reports, among dead is one Indian officer, a colonel.
Safe to say the “Wuhan Spirit” is dead, tweeted Kugelman after the latest incident. “Glass half empty: All the personal diplomacy that Xi & Modi invested in strengthening the relationship through summitry has been for naught. Glass half full: The two sides will need to turn back to that spirit to get things back on track.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Indian troops resorted to unprovoked fire at a civilian population along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, reports The Express Tribune.
The Muslim-majority Himalayan valley remains an unfinished agenda of 1947 partition of British Empire in the subcontinent into two independent states: Pakistan and India.
Pakistan’s armed forces and all three services chiefs, including Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) on Tuesday paid a rare visit to the country’s premier intelligence agency ISI’s headquarters.
A comprehensive briefing was reportedly given to the military leadership on regional security issues with special focus on situation of LoC and Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K).
The rare visit of top military leadership to the country’s spy agency comes amid surge in the Indian ceasefire violations along LoC following the abrogation of IOJ&K special status in August last year.
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