Indian special forces soldier killed in skirmish with Chinese troops

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A soldier with India’s special forces has been killed in the latest border showdown with Chinese troops on their contested Himalayan border.

The death is the first reported from two incidents in 48 hours on the border which has heightened tensions between the giant nations just two months after a battle that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.

India and China, which fought a border war in 1962, have accused each other of seeking to cross their unofficial frontier in the Ladakh region in a bid to gain territory on Saturday night, and then again on Monday.

Neither side has announced any casualties but Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari, a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile, told AFP that an Indian soldier of Tibetan origin was “martyred during the clash” on Saturday night.

She said another member of the Special Frontier Force (SFF) that reportedly includes many ethnic Tibetans who oppose China’s claim to their home region was wounded in the operation.

The world’s two most populous countries have sent tens of thousands of troops to the region since a brutal 15 June battle fought with wooden clubs and fists.

India has said 20 troops were killed. China acknowledged casualties but did not give figures.

The two sides blamed each other for the latest incidents.

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 said that India was “seriously violating China’s territorial sovereignty” with its operation staged Monday and demanded that Indian troops withdraw.

India’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that China had caused the latest incident “even as ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation.”

Indian media reports, quoting military sources, said PLA forces tried to take hilltops traditionally claimed by India around Pangong Tso, a lake at 4,200 metres (13,500 feet) altitude.

India’s defence ministry said its troops “undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground”.

The Business Standard newspaper said that the SFF had been used to take heights that China considers its own. The Indian government does not comment on the special force’s operations.

Amid calls for boycotts of Chinese goods, India has stepped up economic pressure on China since the June battle and repeatedly warned that relations would suffer unless its 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.