NEW DELHI, June 19, 2020 (AFP) - India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday that his country was “hurt and angry” after a border clash with China that left 20 troops dead, and warned that the army has been given free rein to respond to any new violence.
India and China have blamed each other for the high altitude clash on their contested Himalaya frontier on Monday which also left Chinese casualties after brutal fights with nail studded batons, rocks and rods covered in barbed wire.
Modi called a rare meeting with opposition party leaders to discuss the simmering crisis hours after China released 10 Indian troops, including two majors, it had seized in the battle in the Galwan valley of Ladakh region.
Amid mounting calls for a boycott of Chinese products and highly-charged public funerals for the dead soldiers, Modi said “the entire country is hurt and angry at the steps taken by China”.
The prime minister denied that any Chinese forces were “inside our territory” and insisted that “upholding sovereignty is foremost” for his Hindu nationalist government.
“The armed forces have been given a free hand to take all necessary steps,” Modi said.
India and China have rushed reinforcements to the border since the most serious incident between the world’s two most populous countries in more than four decades. The neighbours fought a full-scale border war in 1962 and have not agreed a frontier since.
Amid international concern over the clash, top US officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have sided with India in accusing China of escalating tensions.
The release of the 10 soldiers late Thursday, confirmed by Indian security officials, followed several rounds of talks between top military officers and the foreign ministers on both sides.
China did not confirm the release but a foreign ministry spokesman said there were no Indian troops “currently detained” and that the two countries “are in dialogue to resolve the matter on the ground through military and diplomatic channels.”