• The Star Staff

India-China border dispute: A conflict years in the making

By Russell Goldman

The most violent encounter in decades between the Chinese and Indian armies arrayed along a disputed border high in the Himalayas did not involve any exchange of gunfire.

Instead, soldiers from the two nuclear armed nations fashioned weapons from what they could find in the desolate landscape some 14,000 feet above sea level. They wielded fence posts and clubs wrapped in barbed wire. Soldiers squared off under a moonlit sky along jagged cliffs soaring high above the Galwan Valley, fighting for hours in pitched hand-to-hand battles.

Some Indian soldiers died after tumbling into the river in the valley below. Others were beaten to death.

Initial reports that one Indian officer and two soldiers died were updated after another 17 soldiers died from injuries compounded by the effects of high-altitude exposure.

The medieval struggle, in one of the most forbidding landscapes on the planet, was a startling culmination of months of building tension and years of dispute.

The fact that Chinese and Indian soldiers were not allowed to carry guns was a reflection of the depth of the bad blood that courses through the forces squared off in a territory that has been disputed for decades.

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