Modi Says No Border Intrusion in Wake of Deadly Clash with China
By Anjana Pasricha June 20, 2020
Days after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a bloody clash with Chinese soldiers along their Himalayan border, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India has not lost any territory.
"Nobody has intruded into our border, neither is anybody there now, nor have our posts been captured," Modi said in televised comments that followed a meeting on Friday with top opposition leaders to discuss the crisis.
His remarks are being seen as an effort to cool tensions following the most serious clash in nearly five decades between the nuclear-armed neighbors whose border in the high Himalayas has many disputed stretches.
India and China have accused each other of instigating the clash that occurred Monday night in eastern Ladakh, an icy, barren desert mountain region that has strategic significance for both countries.
Earlier in the week, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had told his Chinese counterpart that the dispute was triggered after "the Chinese side sought to erect a structure in Galwan valley on our side of the LAC," according to a statement by the Indian foreign ministry. The LAC refers to the Line of Actual Control that demarcates the unsettled border between them.
"The entire country is hurt and angry at the steps taken by China," Modi said. "India wants peace and friendship, but upholding sovereignty is foremost."
The clash has led to a wave of popular anger in India. The hand-to-hand fighting involved crude weapons that included stones and clubs -- a photo doing the rounds on social media in India apparently shows rods studded with nails.
For its part, China says that it was Indian troops who crossed the LAC and built fortifications and barriers on the Chinese side. "The right and wrong is very clear and the responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday.
A long-standing protocol between the two armies prohibits the use of guns and explosives along the border, which is patrolled by troops that are often close to each other.
According to reports in the Indian media, 76 Indian soldiers were also wounded in the clash.
Modi vowed to defend the border, saying that India's armed forces had been given a free hand to take all necessary steps and were capable of protecting Indian territory.
The incident has intensified a standoff that began in early May when Indian officials accused Chinese troops of crossing the border at three places.
Attempts to defuse tension
The Times of India newspaper reported Saturday that India has moved fighter jets to air bases facing China and deployed additional warships in the Bay of Bengal region in a signal that it is prepared for an escalation. In the past month both countries had already deployed additional forces following tensions that were sparked by Indian accusations that China has entered Indian territory.
Military commanders have been holding talks since the clash to defuse the tensions and both countries have said they want a peaceful resolution. But so far there appears to be no breakthrough. Both countries say they are also communicating through diplomatic channels.
Opposition parties have slammed the government for not detecting what it says are Chinese intrusions and called for tough action in getting China to leave Indian territory. "Does the government not receive, on a regular basis, satellite pictures of the borders of our country?" Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress Party, has asked.
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