India China Border: China is believed to be upset with India's construction of roads, air strips

New Delhi: Military officials from India and China are meeting now to "defuse the situation" after a Colonel and two soldiers were killed in a "violent face off" at night in Ladakh on Indian territory. Army sources say the Indian army personnel were not shot; stones and batons were used, they told NDTV, adding that there were "significant Chinese casualties."

The Indian army personnel were killed at Galwan Valley, high in the snow desert of Ladakh, marking a giant escalation of the tension that has been simmering at the border for weeks. While Major Generals from both armies were meeting at the border in Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met with the three service chiefs, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar.

The death of the commanding officer and two soldiers comes after Army Chief General MM Naravane said recently that both sides have begun disengaging from Galwan Valley.

An initial statement from the army spoke of the loss of three Indian army personnel . A revised statement spoke of "casualties on both sides". The statement declared, "During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place yesterday night with casualties on both sides. The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer and two soldiers. Senior military officials of the two sides are currently meeting at the venue to defuse the situation."

China accused India of crossing the border and "provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides". Beijing has lodged "strong protests and solemn representations" to Delhi, said a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry.

Soldiers from both sides have been camped out in the Galwan Valley in the high-altitude Ladakh region though recent reports spoke of the armies thinning out forces after several rounds of talks between high-level military officers.

China is believed to be upset with India's ongoing construction of roads and air strips near the border. After years of neglect Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has pushed for improving connectivity and by 2022, 66 key roads along the Chinese border will have been built.

One of these roads is near the Galwan Valley that connects to India's Daulat Beg Oldi air base, which was inaugurated last October.

"The road is very important because it runs parallel to the LAC and is linked at various points with the major supply bases inland," said Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary to Reuters in a recent interview.

"It remains within our side of the LAC. It is construction along this new alignment which appears to have been challenged by the Chinese."