Following the death of 20 soldiers at the hands of Chinese troopers in the Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said “peace-loving” India was capable of giving a fitting reply if provoked.
The Indian government’s strong message to China was also conveyed during a telephonic conversation between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. He said the extremely violent incident on Monday night “will have a serious impact on the bilateral relationship” between the two neighbours. Both accused troops of the other side for violating the understanding reached by their respective senior commanders on June 6 but agreed to “cool down” tensions on the ground “as soon as possible” and maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area.
Amid heightened tensions, frontline bases of the Indian Army and the Air Force along the nearly 3,500 km de-facto border with China have been put on high alert. The Indian Navy has also been asked to raise its alert level in the Indian Ocean Region where the Chinese Navy has been making regular forays.
In New Delhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the situation with Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, and the chief of the forces.
Even as Indian foreign ministry officials and military leadership spent the day working the phones, including with their Chinese counterparts and those of other countries, trying to find a peaceful resolution, reliable sources reported that Chinese troops have ingressed several kilometres into the Depsang plain between the Galwan-Shyok river junction and the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) area. According to the reports, the PLA is building two roads on the Indian side of the LAC. This makes Depsang the seventh area where the PLA has encroached upon Indian territory.
Meanwhile, during his video conference with chief ministers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Indian soldiers and said “whatever may be the situation and circumstances, India will firmly protect every inch of the country’s land and its self-respect.” In his statement, the prime minister said he wished to assure the country that the sacrifice of its soldiers, who have been “martyred while they were fighting”, will not go in vain.
“India’s integrity and sovereignty is supreme for us, and no one can stop us from defending it. Nobody should have any iota of doubt about this,” he said, leading the meeting in observing a two-minute silence. The Chinese are yet to disclose the number of deaths on their side, but an editorial in the Chinese government mouthpiece Global Times admitted to casualties on its side.
In his conversation with the Chinese foreign minister, Jaishankar conveyed India’s “protest in the strongest terms” on the violent face-off in the Galwan valley.
He said the Chinese side reneged on the June 6 agreement on de-escalation and disengagement along the LAC when it sought to erect a structure in the Galwan valley “on the Indian side of the LAC”.
“While this became a source of dispute, the Chinese side took pre-meditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties,” Jaishankar said.
“It reflected an intent to change the facts on the ground in violation of all our agreements to not change the status quo,” Jaishankar said. He said the Chinese side should reassess its actions and take corrective steps, and troops of both sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC and should not take any unilateral action to alter it.
According to the statement issued by the Chinese government, its foreign minister said Indian troops cross the LAC again on June 15, which led to fierce physical clashes, resulting in casualties.
The Chinese foreign minister lodged China’s “protest”, demanded the Indian side conduct a “thorough investigation”, “severely punish” those responsible for the incident, strictly control the frontline troops, and immediately stop all provocative actions.
“The Indian side must not misjudge the current situation and must not underestimate China’s firm will to safeguard territorial sovereignty,” he said. As the politics over the incident intensified, Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi said her party stands with the Army and the government, but it should tell the nation how the Chinese occupied Indian territory and why 20 brave soldiers were martyred. Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, and others announced compensation to the families of dead soldiers from their respective states, and promised government jobs to a member of their families.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav asked the government to not only give strategic but also economic reply. He demanded that contracts awarded to Chinese companies should be suspended with immediate effect and imports from China should be reduced. The Confederation of All India Traders renewed its appeal to people to boycott Chinese goods. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi unit chief Aadesh Gupta said he will hold a candlelight march to India Gate in the memory of the soldiers.