(Editor’s Note: Updated overnight with India’s official statement in paragraph 23 on China’s claim over entire Galwan valley in Ladakh, where the two armies’ soldiers clashed on Jun. 15.)
New Delhi: A day after India lost 20 soldiers in a bloody clash with Chinese military personnel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India would give a befitting reply to the Asian dragon and would not let the loss of lives of Indian troopers go in vain.
In remarks delivered here, Modi expressed condolences to the bereaved families of soldiers during the time of grief and “heartfelt gratitude” to them.
“India wants peace. But on provocation, India will give a befitting reply,” the prime minister said, as the nation erupted in anger with countrywide anti-China protests and calls for boycott of China-made goods.
“I want to assure the nation that the sacrifice made by our soldiers will not go in vain. India’s integrity and sovereignty is supreme for us, and no one can stop us from defending it. Nobody should have any iota of doubt about this,” he said.
It was as though he was sending a message across to his political rivals, who have been targetting him ever since the Ladakh stand-off between the Indian and Chinese troopers was put out in the public domain 45 days ago.
“Whatever may be the situation and circumstances, India will firmly protect every inch of the country’s land and its self-respect,” he said.
“India is culturally a peace-loving country. Our history has been that of a peace-loving country. In every era, we have wished for peace and welfare of the entire world and humanity,” Modi said, reiterating the Ministry of External Affairs statement yesterday that it was the Chinese side that provoked the clash.
Modi said India has “always worked closely” with neighbouring nations in “a cooperative and friendly manner” and has “always wished for their development and welfare”.
“Whenever there have been differences of opinion, we have always tried to ensure that those differences never turned into a dispute,” he said.
“We never provoke anyone, but we also 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.”
The violent clashes on the night of June 15 in which over 40 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops were also killed or injured are the worst military conflict in 45 years between India and China at borders in Ladakh.
The PM has called an all-party virtual meeting on Friday to discuss the situation and the country’s response to the emerging military situation in Ladakh with China.
India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr S. Jaishankar spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi over the telephone. Yi reportedly said China did not want any more clashes between the troops of two countries.
The review meeting was attended by Chief of Defence Staff and Department of Military Affairs Secretary General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R. K. S. Bhadauria.
Rajnath Singh later tweeted a condolence message for the loss of lives of soldiers.
From Moscow, Russian Federation‘s The Kremlin said it was concerned over the military clash on the border between China and India and yet, it believed that the two countries could resolve this conflict themselves.
“Certainly, we are watching with great attention what is happening on the Chinese-Indian border,” Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters today.
“We believe that this is a very alarming report. But we consider that the two countries are capable of taking necessary steps to prevent such situations in the future and to ensure that there is predictability and stability in the region and that this is a safe region for nations, first of all, China and India,” Peskov said, according TASS news wire.
The Kremlin spokesman emphasised that China and India are Russia’s close partners and allies, and “have very close and mutually beneficial relations [with Russia] built on mutual respect.”
Tensions flared up in the eastern Ladakh border region after in early May this year after 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in skirmishes. More than 100 soldiers on both sides were injured. Later, India and China said they were taking steps to maintain peace and stability after a June 6 meeting between their regional commanders.
The India-China military face-off has claimed its first casualty in the diplomacy sphere, as the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral virtual meeting of foreign ministers schedule on June 23 was postponed indefinitely.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs Statement overnight on June 18:
In response to a query on the statement by the Chinese side that the sovereignty of the Galwan valley area belongs to China, India’s Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said,
“As we have conveyed earlier today, External Affairs Minister and the State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China had a phone conversation on recent developments in Ladakh.”
“Both sides have agreed that the overall situation should be handled in a responsible manner and that the understandings reached between Senior Commanders on 6th June should be implemented sincerely. Making exaggerated and untenable claims is contrary to this understanding.”