20 Indian soldiers dead as Chinese troops 'use iron rods and stones' in clash

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20 Indian soldiers dead as Chinese troops 'use iron rods and stones' in clash

Twenty Indian soldiers have been killed during clashes with Chinese troops using iron rods and stones in the Himalayas, military chiefs said.

Indian officials had earlier revealed there had been casualties on both sides, but no shots were fired in the violence.

An Indian colonel was among those killed, the military said.

Beijing has confirmed a “violent physical confrontation” happened yesterday in the border area, did not reveal the number of casualties.

Each side has accused the other of provoking the bloody clash in the Galwan Valley.

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An Indian government source told Reuters that troops had fought with iron rods and stones, and that no shots had been fired.

It is the first time troops have died in a border clash between the two countries since 1967.

The nuclear powers have been unable to settle the dispute along their lengthy frontier.

20 Indian soldiers dead as Chinese troops 'use iron rods and stones' in clash 1

20 Indian soldiers dead as Chinese troops 'use iron rods and stones' in clash 2

China and India have traded accusations over who was to blame for Monday’s clashes in the snow deserts of Ladakh – which came after military commanders held meetings aimed at reducing tensions.

Since early May, hundreds of soldiers have fronted up against each other at three locations, each side accusing the other of trespassing.

On Monday night a group of soldiers came to blows, the Indian army said in a statement, adding that the two sides had now disengaged.

20 Indian soldiers dead as Chinese troops 'use iron rods and stones' in clash 3

The two sides had been discussing ways to de-escalate but an Indian government source claimed China’s People’s Liberation Army had turned on a group of Indian soldiers – which included an officer.

“They attacked with iron rods, the commanding officer was grievously injured and fell, and when that happened, more soldiers swarmed to the area and attacked with stones,” said the source.

The Chinese side brought in reinforcements and the brawl went on for a couple of hours, the source said.

“Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a statement.

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A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman accused India of a “severe violation” of agreements in place.

Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing: “What’s shocking is that on June 15, the Indian side severely violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line and provoked and attacked the Chinese forces, causing a violent physical confrontation between the two border forces.”

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Former Indian army commander D. S. Hooda said: “This is extremely, extremely serious, this is going to vitiate whatever dialogue was going on.”

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.

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