Deadly clashes break out between India and China

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Members of the non-governmental organisation MADADGAAR PARIVAR protest against the killing of Indian soldiers by Chinese troops, in Ahmedabad, on June 16, 2020. (AFP)
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An Indian man burns a photograph of Chinese president Xi Jinping during a protest against China in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 16 June 2020

Deadly clashes break out between India and China

  • Twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives in an escalation of tension with China at the disputed border of the Himalayan region of Ladakh
  • The Monday night escalation follows weeks of tension and the mobilization by both sides of thousands of extra troops at the border

NEW DELHI: Twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives on Monday in an escalation of tension with China at the disputed border of the Himalayan region of Ladakh. It was the first border clash between the two neighbors in the last 45 years and experts say it is serious.

“The loss of lives on the Indian side includes an officer,” the Indian Army said in an official statement on Tuesday.

The Monday night escalation follows weeks of tension and the mobilization by both sides of thousands of extra troops at the border.

“During the de-escalation process underway in the Galwan Valley, a violent face-off took place (on Monday night) with casualties on both sides,” the statement added.

Each side blamed the other for the escalation.

“A violent face-off happened as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there,” the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

New Delhi called for “dialogue for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas.”

On the other hand, Beijing blamed New Delhi for the escalation.

“On June 15, Indian troops seriously violated the consensus of the two sides, crossed the border illegally twice and carried out provocative attacks on Chinese personnel resulting in serious physical conflicts between the two border forces,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the Chinese state-run English daily Global Times, Beijing also suffered casualties in the clashes.

“Based on what I know, the Chinese side suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley clash. I want to tell the Indian side not to be arrogant and misread China’s restraint as weakness. China doesn’t want to have a clash with India, but we don’t fear it,” tweeted Global Times editor Hu Xijin.

“The situation is serious and there is no way to underplay it,” former Indian Army Lt. Gen. Deependra Singh Hooda told Arab News.

“We have not seen this kind of violence since 1975,” he said.

The problem began early last month when Indian troops blamed China’s military for hindering the usual patrolling at the line of actual control (LAC) along the Ladakh and Sikkim border.

Beijing blamed its southern neighbor for building road infrastructure at the Fingers region around the Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.

The present standoff, which began with border skirmishes, is confined to those key areas — Pangong Tso, Galwan River, Demchok and Hot Springs — where India and China have had traditional differences on the perception of the LAC in the Ladakh region.

Both sides adopted a firm approach and, according to media reports, China deployed nearly 2,500 extra troops in the region, in addition to enhancing its weaponry and military infrastructure.

In order to de-escalate the situation both sides opened military and diplomatic channels and there were reports that both sides had begun pulling back their troops and easing the situation.

The escalation on Monday came as a shock to many and added to the mounting political pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been facing a series of domestic and foreign policy challenges in recent times.

On Sunday, New Delhi’s long-standing friend and neighbor Nepal passed a law redrawing its international border with India by including some of the disputed territories.

“What happened on the border is extremely unfortunate. I think time has come for the government to start taking opposition into confidence and building a national consensus on such issues,” a senior leader of the opposition Congress party, Manish Tewari, told the media.

Experts say that the latest situation at the border might complicate the situation and political engagement is the only way out.

“The latest incident complicates the situation. What we now see is the opposite of what we have been hearing for the last few days,” Hooda said.

Manoj Kewalramani of the Bangalore-based think-tank, The Takshashila Institution, said that this was a serious escalation of events. “It is extremely serious. For decision-makers on either side, this is a new dynamic, which breaches what had become an uneasy threshold of patrolling and incursions. What it tells us about the broader relationship is that we are likely to see volatility as both countries rise, and it will take significant political will to maintain stability,” Kewalramani told Arab News.

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

Updated 10 min ago

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

  • Officials say a majority are under lockdown or afraid to perform last rites

NEW DELHI: Pratamesh Walavalker was always proud of living in a well-connected area with neighbors and relatives who look out for each other.

However, the resident of Dombivali East, nearly 70 kilometers from India’s financial capital Mumbai, experienced a harsh reality check on Thursday.

None of his neighbors or more than 100 relatives responded to his calls for help when his 57-year-old father died of coronavirus-related complications.

Help, he said, finally arrived in the form of Iqbal Mamdani and his group of Muslim volunteers, who took his father’s body to a cremation ground for his last rites.

“No one came to our help, not even my close neighbor. There is so much panic among people about COVID-19 that our own don’t come near us. The Muslim volunteers helped us in this hour of crisis,” Walavalker, 28, told Arab News.

That same night, 50-year-old Mamdani and his group of volunteers helped another family perform the last rites of an 80-year-old Hindu woman who had also fallen victim to the disease.

The group was formed in late March after a local civic body said: “All dead bodies of COVID-19 patients should be cremated at the nearest crematorium irrespective of religion.”

After reports of a Muslim man being cremated in the Malwani area of the city angered the community, several members met with the authorities and managed to revise the order.

Since then, Mamdani said members of Mumbai’s Bada Qabrastan — the largest cemetery in the city — have extended their services to other communities as well.

“We get calls from different hospitals and people, and they seek our help in taking bodies to their final resting place. We decided to help the victims at this hour of crisis when there was chaos and panic in the city with the number of coronavirus cases increasing every day,” he told Arab News.

So far, the group has buried 450 Muslim bodies and cremated over 250 Hindu bodies.

He said their efforts would have been impossible without the Jama Masjid Trust, which oversees the Bada Qabrastan.

“On our request, the government allowed us to bury the dead bodies in seven burial grounds in the city,” he said.

There was one problem, however.

“No one was willing to come forward to collect dead bodies from the hospital and bring them to the cemetery,” Mamdani said.

Through word of mouth, Mamdani said seven Muslim volunteers quickly offered to help out.

The first challenge the group faced was a lack of ambulances, due to a shortage in supply as a result of the pandemic.

At first, they tried renting a private ambulance, “but the owner would not rent their vehicles for carrying COVID-19 victims,” Mamdani said.

With no other option left, the group decided to pool their resources and buy abandoned ambulances.

Mamdani said: “We managed to get 10 such vehicles from different parts of the city. With the help of mechanics and other resources, within eight days we managed to roll out the ambulances on the road.”

When the volunteers began gathering Muslim bodies from the hospital, they realized that several Hindu bodies had been left unclaimed, as their relatives “were too scared to perform the last rites.”

Mamdani said another factor behind unclaimed Hindu bodies was quarantine. The lockdown forced relatives to stay indoors and avoid the cremation grounds.

Experts have praised the efforts of the group.

“The Muslim volunteers have been really great support. They started working at a time when there was total chaos and panic in Mumbai,” Dr. Sulbha Sadaphule of Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, told Arab News.

Of the 820,000 COVID-19 cases in India, 100,000 are in Mumbai, where around 5,500 people have lost their lives from the nationwide fatality count of around 22,500.

“The morgue was overflowing with bodies because of a lack of ambulances and staff. When hospital staff and health workers were short in numbers they were helping us and the people,” added Dr. Sadaphule.

Mamdani said they would not have done it any other way.

“India is a country of religious harmony and we believe there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion. With this motto we decided to perform the last rites on behalf of the Hindu families with the support of the police and relatives,” he said.