India-China standoff: Modi vows ‘fitting reply’ to deaths of 20 Indian soldiers in Himalayan fistfight

Deaths ‘deeply disturbing and painful’, says Indian defence minister, as China continues to withhold details on its casualties

An Indian soldier stands guard at check post along a highway leading to Ladakh, on Wednesday 17 June ( EPA )

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the death of 20 Indian soldiers in a clash with Chinese troops at the border on Monday night, vowing that their deaths “will not be in vain”.

Speaking on national television, Mr Modi said that India “wants peace, but when provoked will give a fitting reply regardless of the situation”.

There has been a clamour for action in the mostly conservative Indian media after the deadly confrontation in Galwan Valley, Kashmir, which led to the first deaths on the disputed Himalayan border since 1975. An editorial in the Times of India called for economic sanctions, saying that “China pushed too hard… India must push back”.

Officials say no shots were fired, but that the clash went on for several hours and involved fist fighting and the use of rocks, crude clubs and riot gear. India says some of the 20 dead, who included a high-ranking officer, perished after prolonged exposure to “sub-zero temperatures”.

Both sides are now intent on de-escalating the situation, and their respective foreign ministers held a phone call on Wednesday afternoon. India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar “underlined that this unprecedented development will have a serious impact on the bilateral relationship”, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

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About Cholo Brooks 14990 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.