SRINAGAR – A clash high in the Himalayas between the world’s two most populated countries claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers in a border region that the two nuclear armed neighbors have disputed for decades, Indian officials said Tuesday.
The clash in the Ladakh region Monday — during which Indian officials said neither side fired any shots — was the first deadly confrontation between India and China since 1975. Experts said it would be difficult for the two nations to ease heightened tensions.
The Indian and Chinese troops fought each other with fists and rocks, Indian officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information.
The Indian Army initially said in a statement that three Indian soldiers had died, but later updated the number to 20 and said 17 "were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain.” The statement did not disclose the nature of the soldiers' injuries.
China accused Indian forces of carrying out “provocative attacks” on its troops without offering more details and did not disclose if any of its soldiers died.
After the clash, the two sides “disengaged” from the area where the the fighting happened, the Indian Army statement said.
The United Nations urged both sides “to exercise maximum restraint."
“We are concerned about reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control between India and China," U.N. associate spokesperson Eri Kaneko said. “We take positive note of reports that the two countries have engaged to de escalate the situation."