Modi yet to respond to death of soldiers in face-off with Chinese troops on border
NEW DELHI/BEIJING (INDIA/CHINA) – India awaited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response on Wednesday to the death of at least 20 soldiers in a border clash with Chinese troops. While the country’s media vented its fury political rivals goaded Modi over his silence.
Following Monday’s clashes, China made it clear that it did not want to see any more clashes on the border with India. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated that China could not be blamed for the incident, adding that the situation was stable and controllable.
Indian officials said no shots were fired, but soldiers were hit with clubs and stones in a brawl between both sides in Galwan Valley in the Himalayas where India’s Ladakh borders China’s Aksai Chin to the east.
According to India’s foreign ministry, there had been casualties on both sides, but China has not disclosed any casualties so far.
The prime minister held a meeting with his defence and foreign ministers and the military chiefs late on Tuesday, but he had yet to speak publicly on the worst clash between the two countries since 1967, five years after China defeated India in a war.
Modi came to power the second time in May 2019 following a campaign focused on national security after spiralling tensions with Pakistan, on India’s western border.
“Gloves are off, with the Galwan valley clash, China pushed too hard,” the Times of India wrote in an editorial. “India must push back.”
“Beijing can’t kill our soldiers at the border and expect to benefit from our huge market,” it continued, advocating sanctions against Chinese imports.
In what is seen as his greatest foreign policy challenge since coming to power in 2014, Modi desisted from commenting publicly on the incident as a clamour for action rose.
“Why is the PM silent, why is he hiding,” Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party tweeted. “Enough is enough, We need to know what happened. How dare China kill our soldiers, how dare they take our land.”
Hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops have been eyeballing each other since early May at three or four locations in the uninhabited high-altitude deserts of Ladakh.
India says Chinese troops have intruded into its side of the Line of Actual Control or the de facto border, which China rejects.
China had asked India not to build roads in the area, claiming it to be its territory.
According to the Indian government sources, the clashes on Monday night broke out during a meeting to discuss ways to defuse the situation, and the colonel commanding the Indian side was one of the first to be struck and killed.
Many of the other Indian fatalities had succumbed to their wounds, having been unable to survive the freezing temperatures at night.
Unlike in India, the incident did not receive wide coverage in China, where official media reported a statement on the incident from the spokesperson for the Chinese army’s Western Command.
On social media, bloggers and media aggregating platforms shared Indian media reports, such as the Indian army’s announcement acknowledging that the death toll had risen to 20.
Most vocal was the Global Times published by the country’s ruling Communist Party.
Its editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, took to domestic and global social media platforms to scold India, saying “Indian public opinion needs to stay sober” and to warn that China did not fear a clash.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field