TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — India's Asian News International (ANI) on Tuesday (June 16) cited intercepts of Chinese communications as revealing that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had suffered "43 casualties" during a fierce border clash with Indian troops that day.
On Tuesday, a melee broke out between Indian and Chinese troops on a disputed stretch of border in the Ladakh region, with the Indian side suffering 20 dead and the PLA allegedly reporting 43 dead and wounded. The casualty figures were based on Indian intercepts of PLA communications, according to a source cited by ANI.
India's Ministry of External Affairs says the incident occurred after the Chinese side tried to "unilaterally change the status quo" during de-escalation talks over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley. However, the PLA’s Western Theater Command spokesperson Zhang Shuili accused the Indian army of crossing the LAC and launching "provocative attacks," according to China's Ministry of National Defense.
The Indian Army initially stated that three soldiers had died, including a colonel, but later raised the number to 20 dead and 17 injured with more casualties likely to follow. Beijing has yet to announce any casualties but blames Indian forces for allegedly crossing into Chinese territory.
No shots were fired, with the two sides instead reportedly using fists, rocks, and wooden clubs to fight each other. It is not exactly clear how the lack of discharged firearms could have lead to such a large number of deaths, but local Indian media outlets reported that troops had been "beaten to death" and that they had fought in what was described as "subzero conditions."
The Indian External Affairs Ministry said that PLA soldiers retreated back behind the LAC after the skirmish. Other Indian reports stated that both sides "disengaged" from the scene of the confrontation.
This incident is the deadliest of its kind along the China-India border since 1967 when hundreds were killed and wounded in a series of clashes. The area was also the scene of the 1962 Sino-Indian War, which led to thousands of casualties.
The most recent border clash that led to the death of Indian soldiers took place in 1975, when four Indian soldiers were killed in a deadly ambush laid by PLA troops.
The Associated Press cited Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Wilson Center, as saying that neither side can afford to engage in a shooting war at this point. However, he also said that quick de-escalation is unlikely and that this "crisis isn't ending anytime soon."