At least three soldiers were killed Monday during a skirmish between Indian and Chinese forces in a disputed region of the Himalayas.
Indian officials reported “loss of life” on both sides and confirmed the death of one officer and two soldiers, while China blamed the incident on India and claimed no casualties on its side.
“What is shocking is that on June 15th, the Indian troops seriously violated the consensus of the two sides, crossed the border illegally twice, and carried out provocative attacks on Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical conflicts between the two border forces,” reports Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
The incident represents the first fatal border clash between the two nations in more than 40 years.
“China has lodged strong protest and representation with the India side, and once again we solemnly ask the India side to follow our consensus and strictly regulate its front line troops and do not cross the line and do not stir up troubles…We both agreed to resolve this issue through dialogue and consolation and make efforts for easing the situation and upholding peace and tranquility in the border area,” continues Zhao.
The incident occurred in Galwan Valley in Ladakh, a region claimed by both nations. A rough border was established there in 1962, but neither side agrees exactly where it is.
“Face-offs occur due to differing perceptions of where the actual border is, as it is not delineated on the ground,” notes retired Indian General Bikram Singh.
Tensions have been high for weeks as both sides continue to send troops to Ladakh despite promising to solve the issue with peaceful dialogue. The region is largely uninhabited but is strategically valuable to both sides both economically and militarily.
Monday’s incident comes after India constructed a new road into Ladakh, prompting China to built infrastructure of its own. The twin projects brought forces from both sides into close proximity, increasing the odds of a fight.
As noted by former Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, those at the border would do well to proceed with caution so that the skirmish does not grow into a larger conflict.
“Even if tensions and tempers fray, they would do well to remember that they have to continue to manage their differences in a grown-up way because armed clashes and military combat can have extremely serious repercussions for the stability of the region going beyond the ambit of the purely bilateral relationship between the two countries,” says Rao.
Indeed, Monday’s deaths could hint of a larger conflict to come between two massive nations that have been adding to their nuclear arsenal over the past year. According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China possesses 320 warheads and is working on a “nuclear triad” that includes new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear capable aircraft. India has an estimated 150 warheads and is working to diversity its weapons.
Author’s Note: China’s reckless ambitions could easily provoke WWIII. As Thomas Malthus predicted, any given population will expand to consume all available resources, checked by war, famine, or disease. With two large populations consuming resources, war is a real possibility.
Editor’s Note: In fact, it is inevitable. Eventually, war will come to Asia, China and India are bursting at the seams.