A soldier of Tibetan origin with India’s special forces has reportedly been killed in the latest border confrontation between India and China on their contested Himalayan border, fuelling concerns of a wider military confrontation between the two regional powers.
The death is the first reported from two incidents occurring within 48 hours on the border, two months after a battle that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
India and China, which fought a border war in 1962, have each accused the other of trying to cross their unofficial frontier in the Ladakh region in an attempt to gain territory.
Neither side has announced any casualties, but Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari, a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile, told AFP news agency on Tuesday that the Tibetan-origin soldier was “martyred during the clash” on Saturday night. She did not identify the soldier by name.
She said another member of the Special Frontier Force, which reportedly includes many ethnic Tibetans who oppose China’s claim to their home region, was wounded in the operation.
India says 20 soldiers killed in border clash with China
The world’s two most populous countries have sent tens of thousands of troops to the region since a brutal June 15 battle fought with wooden clubs and fists.
India has said 20 troops were killed. China has acknowledged casualties but has not given figures.
The two sides have blamed each other for the latest incidents.
Meanwhile, the United States said on Tuesday it was closely monitoring the border dispute, adding that it hoped for a peaceful resolution.
Earlier, India’s defence ministry said Chinese troops “carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo” at the border on Saturday.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said that India was “seriously violating China’s territorial sovereignty” with its operation on Monday and demanded that Indian troops withdraw.
A Chinese embassy spokeswoman in New Delhi also denied that Chinese troops started the latest flare-up, accusing Indian troops of trespassing across the Line of Actual Control – the de facto border – and conducting “flagrant provocations”.
India’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that China had caused the latest incident “even as ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation.”
“Due to timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts from unilaterally altering the status quo,” ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a statement.
India-china tensions: Calls for boycott of Chinese products
Indian media reports, quoting military sources, said PLA forces tried to take hilltops traditionally claimed by India around Pangong Tso, a lake at an altitude of 4,200 metres (13,800 feet).
India’s defence ministry said its troops “undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground”.
In a statement on Tuesday, a United States Department of State spokesperson said Washington was closely monitoring the border dispute between India and China and it hoped for a peaceful resolution.
After the deadly incident in June, the most serious clash between the two countries in 50 years, both sides agreed to pull back with military chiefs in the region holding five rounds of talks.
But the Indian military said this week that Beijing had reneged on the agreement.
Since then, there have been growing calls in India to boycott Chinese goods, and New Delhi has repeatedly warned that relations would suffer unless Chinese troops pull back.
India has banned at least 49 Chinese owned-apps, including the TikTok video platform, frozen Chinese firms out of contracts and held up Chinese goods at customs posts as tensions have increased.