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Most Killed in Deadly Himalayan Clash Fell to Their Deaths

India and China fought for hours in almost total darkness
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2020 12:20 PM CDT

(Newser) – "I would like to assure the nation that the sacrifice of our jawans [troops] will not be in vain," said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first public comments on Monday's deadly clash with China along the countries' disputed border. It was the first such confrontation in the Galwan Valley—which lies between China's Tibet and India's Ladakh—in 45 years, and it lasted for six hours hours, reports the Guardian. No guns were present, leaving what grew to about 600 soldiers to fight in the nearly pitch-black dark with rocks, iron bars, and their own hands. Most of those who died—India says it lost at least 20 soldiers; the number of Chinese casualties hasn't been given—apparently fell to their deaths from the Himalayan ridge where the fighting occurred. More on how the incident transpired and the fallout:

  • Sources tell the Guardian that Indian soldiers came upon Chinese troops in a part of the border region they believed those troops were supposed to have exited per an agreement earlier this month. A skirmish broke out, and an Indian commanding officer was allegedly pushed and plunged to his death, at which point India called in additional troops who were stationed 2 miles away.

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  • China's foreign minister is calling for India to "harshly punish" those involved. In a call with his Indian counterpart, Wang Yi had this to say: "The Indian side would best not make an incorrect judgement of the situation, would best not underestimate China's strong determination to safety [in] its sovereign territory." He reasserted his country's belief that India was to blame, reports the AP, saying Indian troops had strayed across the de facto border: the Line of Actual Control.
  • That doesn't exactly sync with Modi's remarks, which included this, per the New York Times: "India wants peace, but if provoked, India is capable of giving a befitting reply." Both sides have said largely the same thing: that the other side was to blame, that they stand ready to defend themselves, but that they don't want a fight.
  • Still, the Times of India reports Indian army and air force bases near the de facto border were put on high alert, and the Indian navy was told to up its alert level in the Indian Ocean Region where the Chinese navy has been present of late.
  • CNN reports a deeper confrontation would be extremely challenging for both sides due to the location. The average altitude in the disputed area is 14,000 feet, almost twice the height at which altitude sickness kicks in. Soldiers need days to acclimatize, which slows the process of getting reinforcements in. And that's not the only consideration at such heights. Helicopters can't carry as much, diesel engines don't perform as well, and troops require more supplies to stay healthy. "Even shooting can be more difficult," notes CNN, "with artillery and firearms requiring special sights to cope with the thinner air."
(Read more India stories.)

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