Three Indian soldiers have been killed in a clash on the Chinese border, the Indian army said on Tuesday, following weeks of rising tensions and the deployment of thousands of extra troops from both sides.
"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. Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation," the army said in a statement.
The Indian army said that there were "casualties on both sides", but Beijing made no mention of any deaths or injuries as it swiftly laid the blame squarely on India for the incident.
In response, China's 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".
The nuclear-armed neighbours share a 3488km unmarked border. Troops, tanks and armoured personnel carriers were on either side at multiple locations after the armies clashed several times in disputed areas, South China Morning Post reports.
The Asian countries have taken steps to de-escalate the six-week stand-off after the countries' senior army commanders held talks this month.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying last week said Beijing had reached a "positive consensus" with New Delhi over resolving the situation, while India on Sunday said the two countries had agreed to "peacefully resolve" matters.
China has attempted to build stable relations with India since the 2017 stand-off in Doklam, where troops faced off for 73 days at the trijunction between China, India and Bhutan.
China's President Xi Jinping and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi have met for two informal summits – in Wuhan in 2018, and last year in the coastal town of Mamallapuram – at which both pledged to not let differences on trade and foreign policy turn into disputes.
Indeed, each side has sought to manage public opinion of the current dispute by whipping up nationalistic sentiment, similar to what happened during the 2017 stand-off.
Indian opposition leaders have needled Modi on the topic, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on last week alleging the prime minister had "vanished from the scene" in the face of "Chinese aggression".
More to come.
- South China Morning Post