PM Modi says India wants peace with China, but will give a fitting reply if provoked

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers guard a highway leading towards Leh, bordering China, in Gagangir on 17 June 2020.

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers guard a highway leading towards Leh, bordering China, in Gagangir on 17 June 2020. AFP/Getty Images/Tauseef Mustafa

By Elizabeth Roche | Live Mint

NEW DELHI, India, 17 June 2020

India on Wednesday made it clear that it will not back away from its demand that Chinese troops withdraw from its territory as it readied for a deterioration in ties, with Beijing sticking to its encroachment of Indian territory.

Efforts by foreign ministers S Jaishankar of India and Wang Yi of China to reduce tensions through a phone call on Wednesday seemed to come to nought with the two talking past each other.

This came after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, in a briefing in Beijing, reiterated the Chinese claim that Galwan Valley had always been a part of Chinese territory and accused Indian troops of violating border protocols and the consensus reached at a meeting between senior military commanders on 6 June.

Ties between the two countries have deteriorated sharply over the past two days after 20 Indian troops were killed in a “violent face-off” with Chinese troops in the Galwan area of Ladakh on Monday.

The casualties on both sides—though Beijing has not publicly stated the number of Chinese troops killed and injured—were the first in 45 years. The clash has also put question marks on agreements the two countries have signed to stabilize the border since 1993.

The situation on the border was discussed in a meeting chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh with senior Indian military commanders. Singh later met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the matter, a government official said.

Indian troops across the 3,488 kilometre LAC have been put on high alert as have airforce stations near the border.

A new round of talks on Wednesday between major general rank officers to ease tensions, ended inconclusively.

Earlier in the day, in a stern warning to Beijing, Modi said India wants peace but will give a fitting reply if provoked. “In our neighbourhood, India’s constant effort has been that differences should not become disputes,” Modi said recalling an agreement reached in meetings between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Jaishankar, in his telephone conversation with China’s Wang, conveyed India’s protest in the “strongest terms”, an Indian foreign ministry said in a statement. China erecting a structure in Galwan Valley on India’s side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) created further problems after the two sides decided to take steps to partially disengage on 6 June, he told Wang.

“The Chinese side (then) took pre-meditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties. It reflected an intent to change the facts on ground in violation of all our agreements to not change the status quo,” Jaishankar told the Chinese minister.

“At the conclusion of the discussion, it was agreed that the overall situation would be handled in a responsible manner, and both sides would implement the disengagement understanding of 6 June sincerely. Neither side would take any action to escalate matters and instead, ensure peace and tranquillity as per bilateral agreements and protocols,” the Indian statement said.

The Chinese readout of the conversation revealed how wide the gulf was between the two sides. It said Wang told Jaishankar “the Indian forces crossed LAC again, made deliberate provocations and even violently attacked Chinese soldiers who went for negotiations,” which caused the casualties.

“The adventurism of the Indian Army seriously violated agreements on border issues… We urge the Indian side to conduct a thorough investigation, hold the violators accountable, strictly discipline the frontline troops and immediately stop all provocative acts to ensure such incidents will not occur again,” the Chinese readout said.

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