NEW DELHI: A day after a deadly clash with China, which claimed the lives of more than 20 Indian soldiers along the disputed Himalayan border in Ladakh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that the sacrifice of the troops would not be in vain.
“India wants peace, but when instigated, India is capable of giving a befitting reply, be it any kind of situation,” Modi said in an interaction with the chief ministers of several Indian states on Wednesday.
He added India had “shown our strength” when facing provocation before.
“India will defend every stone, every inch of its territory. India is a peace-loving country which has always tried to maintain cooperative and friendly relations with neighbors,” he said.
Modi’s statement came as opposition parties began questioning his silence on the issue.
“The sacrifice of the Indian soldiers has shaken the conscience of the whole nation,” India’s main opposition Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi, said in a video message on Wednesday.
“There is a strong resentment across the country against this incident. Prime Minister (Modi) should come forward and tell the truth to the nation as to how China captured our land and how the lives of 20 soldiers were sacrificed,” Gandhi said.
Meanwhile, emotions ran high across the country with several cities witnessing protests against China.
People came out on the streets in Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, on Wednesday, and burnt Chinese flags and effigies of China’s President Xi Jinping.
“The way China has been intruding into the Indian treaty and misbehaving with the Indian soldiers, the current escalation is the byproduct of this ugly behavior by China,” Chandrasekhar Tiwari, of the Indian group Forum to Save the Culture, told Arab News.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) called for a boycott of more than 450 Chinese products on Wednesday.
“The CAIT has decided to step up its nationwide movement (for) the boycott of Chinese goods which was launched on 10 June under its campaign,” Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of the CAIT, told Arab News.
The clash on Tuesday, in Ladakh, marked the first significant escalation between the two Asian giants since 1975.
The tension started building up early last month when Indian troops blamed China’s military for hindering the usual patrolling at the Line of Actual Control along the Ladakh and Sikkim border.
Beijing blamed its southern neighbor for building road infrastructure in the Fingers region around the Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.
Amid this blame-game, both sides started the reinforcement of troops, leading to a military buildup.
According to media reports, China deployed nearly 2,500 extra troops in the region, in addition to enhancing its weaponry and military infrastructure.
The violence took place in the Galwan Valley, supposedly as both sides were negotiating de-escalation measures with each other.
“The sovereignty of the Galwan Valley area has always belonged to China. The Indian border troops flip-flopped and seriously violated our border protocols on border-related issues, and the consensus of our commander level talks,” Zhao Lijian, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told the media in Beijing on Wednesday.
Political experts, however, believe that the issue is not about land, but about the more significant problem of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and its geopolitical significance.
“The problem of Jammu and Kashmir is a geopolitical issue that goes back 200 years, and Delhi has refused to see it in the last 72
years as a geopolitical issue,” Asia Siddiq Wahid, a Srinagar-based professor and an expert on the history of Ladakh and Central Asia, told Arab News.
“The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has consistently and vociferously claimed that Jammu and Kashmir is not a dispute and sought to reduce it to a one-sided, internal affair. Instead, it finds itself facing a discourse that has catapulted the Jammu and Kashmir dispute from its tacitly-accepted bilateral dispute into a multilateral one and, now, a global issue,” Wahid added.
“In doing so, the BJP government has brought the region’s geopolitical focus back into fashion after a hiatus of almost half a century.”
Prof. Harsh V. Pant, of the Delhi-based think tank, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said that the border conflict could change the trajectory of Indo-Chinese relations.
“India will have to revaluate its China policy. Some fundamental changes will take place. But both sides would not like to escalate it
any more. I don’t think either of the sides want any war or conflict,” Pant told Arab News.