Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said India would “firmly protect every inch of the country’s land and its self-respect,” a day after the Army announced 20 soldiers were killed by Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh on Monday.
His comments came as a defence source told The Hindu that the situation in eastern Ladakh was now “calm but tense”, with four critically injured soldiers “stable” but some soldiers were still unaccounted for after fierce clashes with Chinese troops. Also, in the light of the unprecedented incident, the Army is said to have revised the rules of engagement along the Line of Actual Control.
“Four personnel critically injured are now stable. In addition, 18 injured in Leh military hospital are also now stable,” the source said. Another 58 personnel with minor injuries should be joining work within a few days. Several soldiers are still unaccounted for and a few could still be in the custody of Chinese troops on the ground.
There was no word from the Chinese side about the dead and injured on its side following the clashes that began on Monday and extended into the night. From the Indian side, too, there was no confirmation of the exact number of Chinese dead and wounded.
Promising that the “supreme sacrifice” of the martyrs would not go in vain, the Prime Minister said, “We have always worked closely with our neighbours in a cooperative and friendly manner... Whenever there have been differences of opinion, we have always tried to ensure that those differences never turned into a dispute,” he said in opening remarks to the Chief Ministers at a virtual COVID-19 conference.
“We never provoke anyone, but we do not compromise with the integrity and sovereignty of our country. Whenever it was needed, we have demonstrated our strength, proving our capabilities in protecting and defending the integrity and sovereignty of the country. India wants peace. But on provocation, India will give a befitting reply,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s official Twitter handle also announced that Mr. Modi has called an all-party meeting for Friday to “discuss the situation in the India-China border areas”. The leaders of political parties would take part in this virtual meeting, a tweet said.
In a tweet, President Ram Nath Kovind said all those who laid down their lives in Galwan Valley had “upheld the best traditions” of the Indian armed forces. “Their valour will be eternally etched in the memory of the nation. My deepest condolences to their families,” he said.
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Sonia seeks explanation
Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked the Prime Minister to tell the nation how Chinese troops could “occupy” Indian territory. In a video message, Ms. Gandhi said the martyrdom of the Indian soldiers had shaken up the entire country’s inner conscience and expressed her party’s solidarity with the armed forces and the government.
Earlier, in a separate video, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said “enough is enough” and asked why was the Prime Minister “silent and hiding”.
The Congress president, however, assured the government of her party’s support. “For the past one-and-a-half months, Chinese troops have infiltrated into Indian territory in Ladakh. When there is so much outrage in the country over this, the Prime Minister should come forward and tell the truth to the nation,” Ms. Gandhi added.
The United Nations called on India and China “to exercise maximum restraint”. “We are concerned about reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control between India and China,” U.N. associate spokesperson Eri Kaneko said. “We take positive note of reports that the two countries have engaged to de-escalate the situation.”