In recent conflict at LAC, 20 Indian soldiers martyred in a violent face-off with Chinese forces on the disputed border, the Indian army has said, in a major escalation of a weeks-long standoff in the western Himalayas.
In a statement, the army said on Tuesday that 17 “critically injured” Indian troops succumbed to their wounds, in addition to an officer and two soldiers who had died earlier.
The soldier died “in the line of duty at the stand-off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain … taking the total that were killed in action to 20”, the statement said.
Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged in the areas where the clashes took place, the statement said, adding that India is firmly committed to “protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation”.
The incident marks the deadliest clash between the nuclear-armed neighbors in decades.
Tensions flare on a fairly regular basis between the two regional powers over their 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) frontier, which has never been properly demarcated.
Thousands of troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours, backed by armoured trucks and artillery, have been involved in the latest face-off since May in the Ladakh region, bordering Tibet.
Indian officials say Chinese soldiers crossed the boundary at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts and ignoring verbal warnings to leave. That triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights.
Army officers and diplomats have held a series of meetings to try to end the impasse, with no breakthrough.
Military experts say one reason for the face-off is that India has been building roads and airfields to improve connectivity and narrow the gap with China’s far superior infrastructure.
At Galwan, India completed a road leading to an airfield last October. China has asked India to stop all construction.
India says it is operating on its side of the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border.