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.
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.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, however, said on Wednesday that no Indian troops had died in the latest flare-up on their frontier.
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.
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.
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 June’s deadly border clashes, 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 180 Chinese owned-apps, including the Pubg Mobile, TikTok, frozen Chinese firms out of contracts and held up Chinese goods at customs posts as tensions have increased.