India's Modi rallies troops at China border after deadly clash
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rallied the country’s troops near a disputed frontier with China, amid heightened tensions in the area following a deadly clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers.
Modi, who flew on Friday into the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a stand-off, underlined that the Indian military stood ready to defend the country.
Last month, twenty Indian soldiers were killed in a fighting in the Galwan Valley, a precipitous and rocky border area that lies between China’s Tibet and India’s Ladakh regions. There were no confirmed reports of Chinese casualties, with each side blaming the other for breaching the border and the subsequent incident.
The clash was the first such deadly fighting between the two nuclear-armed neighbors on the disputed border since 1967.
During the surprise visit on Friday, Modi accused China of “expansionism,” saying his country’s commitment to peace should not be seen as a sign of weakness.
“The era of expansionism is over... History has shown how expansionism pushed humanity towards destruction,” the Indian premier told the soldiers, without naming China.
"India has always pursued the path of peace in the world but at the same time, those who are weak can never initiate steps for peace. Bravery and courage is a prerequisite for peace," he added.
On the other side, the Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, assumed a conciliatory tone at a daily news briefing in Beijing on Friday and said the two countries were holding talks to reduce tensions.
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, responding to a question about Modi’s visit to the border region, said both sides were in communications through diplomatic and military channels to ease the situation.
“In these circumstances, neither side should take actions that might complicate the border situation,” Zhao said at the briefing.
An editorial in China’s Global Times recently suggested that India’s tough stance on border issues may, in part, be because of the US wooing India to formulate a joint Indo-Pacific strategy.
The editorial also said that the US wanted to use India to serve “Washington’s interests” – to contain China.
Under the government of Modi, the basic elements of closer military cooperation with the US have developed further than under previous governments of India.