Five Indian soldiers killed as tank sinks while crossing river near China border

File. Picture taken on 19 May 2024 shows armoured vehicles of the Indian army at a military camp in Ladakh (AFP via Getty Images)
File. Picture taken on 19 May 2024 shows armoured vehicles of the Indian army at a military camp in Ladakh (AFP via Getty Images)

Five Indian soldiers were killed as their tank sank while crossing a river in the region of Ladakh, bordering China, officials said on Saturday.

The tank sank due to a sudden increase in water levels in the Shyok River during military training, the Indian army command centre said in a statement.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and called the accident “unfortunate”.

“Deeply saddened at the loss of lives of five of our brave Indian Army soldiers in an unfortunate accident while getting the tank across a river in Ladakh,” Mr Singh said in a statement shared on X.

“We will never forget exemplary service of our gallant soldiers to the nation...The nation stands firm with them during this hour of grief,” he said.

The accident occurred in the Saser Brangs area in Ladakh, near the Line of Actual Control which divides India and China.

India and China have been locked in a standoff in the area, with widespread concerns that the dispute over the region may someday lead to a wider conflict.

Tensions peaked in June 2020 when 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese military personnel were killed following combat in the Galwan Valley region. While the Asian giants have held many discussions to resolve tensions, they have yet to resolve the key points of contention.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that India may redirect over 10,000 troops from its western border to its frontline with China. About 9,000 soldiers were also previously assigned to the border with China.

The border dispute has also affected diplomatic ties between the two countries, with China’s premier Xi Jinping snubbing the G20 summit hosted by India.

China’s foreign ministry previously said India’s move to send more soldiers to the border was “not conducive to easing tensions”.

“China is committed to working with India to safeguard the peace and stability of the border areas,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

“India‘s increase in military deployments in border areas does not help to calm the situation in the border areas or to safeguard peace and safety in these areas,” Ms Mao added.

Skirmishes at the poorly demarcated Indo-China border date back to the 1950s, with the Asian behemoths also fighting a war over it in 1962.