The confrontation that occurred in the Ladakh region was the deadliest between India and China since 1975.
According to authorities on both sides, not a single shot was fired, and the assaults were carried out in hand-to-hand combat with only rocks and fists.
The Indian Army originally reported that three Indian soldiers had been killed in the fight, but later reported that “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.”
Chinese officials have not reported any deaths from the incident.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian gave little in details but accused Indian forces of carrying out “provocative attacks.”
Indian and Chinese forces have been in a monthslong standoff over disputed territory.
China claims about 35,000 miles of territory in northeast India, while India also claims that China has occupied around 15,000 miles of territory the Aksai Chin Plateau, an area that India says is a part of its Ladakh region.
Chinese and Indian soldiers have stoodoff for more than a month along the over 2,000-mile Line of Actual Control — the border established between India and China in 1962 following a monthlong war.
Chinese officials have said they are dedicated to ensuring “peace and tranquility” but placed the blame for the altercation on Indian soldiers.
“What is shocking is that on June 15, the Indian troops seriously violated the consensus of the two sides, crossed the border illegally twice and carried out provocative attacks on Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical conflicts between the two border forces,” Zhao said.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs likewise said the incident happened “as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo.”
Indian officials accused Chinese soldiers of crossing the border last month to erect posts and disregarded verbal warnings to leave.
Another skirmish was reported in May involving fist fights and rock throwing, but no deaths were reported in that incident.
Army officials and diplomats have reportedly held a series of meeting to try to end the impasse, to no avail yet.
“We are concerned about reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control between India and China, and we urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint,” Eri Kaneko said in a press briefing Tuesday.
“We take positive note of reports that the two countries have engaged to de‑escalate the situation.”