The incident took place in the Galwan Valley region, on the border between Tibet (China) and Ladakh (India).
According to Indian media, soldiers of both sides brawled with sticks and bamboo sticks studded with nails. No shots were fired, as part of a longstanding pact. During the fight, some soldiers fell or were pushed into a river and injured soldiers were “exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain”.
The two nations have signed an agreement according to which the use of firearms is not allowed within two kilometers of the border.
Initially, the Indian authorities reported the death of a colonel and two soldiers. It was later reported that 17 other military personnel died from injuries sustained during the clashes, bringing the final death toll to 20.
The clash provoked protests in India with people burning Chinese flags.
Referring to the matter, Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister said that “”India wants peace but when provoked, India is capable of giving a fitting reply, be it any kind of situation.” The loss of the soldiers would “not be in vain”.
China has not confirmed the number of its victims but has accused India of crossing the border.
This is not the first time that Chinese and Indian troops have fought without conventional firearms on disputed the border (the so-called Line of Actual Control, LAC, 实际 控制 线) between China and India, but it is still the first clash in the region of Kashmir in the past 45 years.
The effective control line marks the border that separates the territory controlled by India from the territory controlled by China between Ladakh and the autonomous region of Chinese Tibet. The term was first used by Zhou Enlai in a 1959 letter to Jawaharlal Nehru. The term subsequently referred to the border formed following the Sino-Indian war of 1962.