Twenty Indian soldiers were killed during a "violent face-off" with Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
The incident occurred during a "deescalation process" underway in the Galwan Valley in the disputed Aksai Chin-Ladakh area, where a large troop buildup has reportedly been taking place for weeks now on both sides of the border, before senior military commanders began talks earlier this month.
Monday's deaths are the first military casualties along the disputed border for more than four decades, Indian defense experts told CNN.
"We have not had casualties on the Line of Actual Control for at least 45 years," said Happymon Jacob, an associate professor and political analyst at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "This is perhaps a game-changer. This is perhaps the beginning of the end of the rapport that India has enjoyed with China for 45 years."
Former Indian Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, also confirmed to CNN this is the first such deadly incident in the last 45 years.
"17 Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the stand-off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20," the Indian Army said in a statement late Tuesday.
India's External-Affairs Ministry statement
"India and China have been discussing through military and diplomatic channels the de-escalation of the situation in the border area in Eastern Ladakh," said India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava on Tuesday.
He said senior commanders had "agreed on a process for such de-escalation" during a "productive meeting" on Saturday, June 6, and ground commanders had met regarding the implementation.
"While it was our expectation that this would unfold smoothly, the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley," he said in the statement.
"Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side," he added.
"Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC. We expect the same of the Chinese side. We remain firmly convinced of the need for the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue. At the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Indian troops of seriously violating the consensus and twice crossing the border line for "illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which lead to serious physical conflict between the two sides.
"China has lodged strong protest and representation with the India side, and we once again we solemnly ask the India side to follow our consensus and strictly regulate its front line troops and do not cross the line and do not stir up troubles or take unilateral moves that may complicate matters," Zhao was quoted by CNN as saying.
"We both agreed to resolve this issue through dialogue and consolation and make efforts for easing the situation and upholding peace and tranquility in the border area."
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