Latin American Herald Tribune – India Bids Tearful Adieu to Fallen Soldiers amid Rising Tension with China


NEW DELHI – India cremated on Thursday many of its soldiers killed during a clash with Chinese troopers in a disputed Himalayan border region as talks to de-escalate one of the worst military crises in decades between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants ended without a breakthrough.

As tensions ran high, officials from both sides said they were talking through military and diplomatic channels to not let the matters escalate further on the contested border in the high-altitude Ladakh sector after at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and four wounded in the hand-to-hand combat between the two armies.

The two sides held senior military-level talks in the Ladakh sector on Wednesday without any consensus on how to defuse the tension, sources in New Delhi said.

The two countries continued to blame each other for the violence and changing the status quo on the de-facto border called Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“India and China have been discussing through military and diplomatic channels the de-escalation of the situation in the border area of eastern Ladakh,” India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told reporters on Thursday.

He said India remained convinced of the need for maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border areas and resolution of differences through dialog.

The spokesperson referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Wednesday statement, saying the government was “strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“It was a premeditated and planned action which resulted in violence and casualties suffered by both sides,” he said, although Beijing has not confirmed any losses.

Srivastava’s counterpart Zhao Lijian in Beijing said the border situation was “overall stable and controllable.”

“Both sides agreed to deal with the serious matter caused by the conflict at the valley in a just manner, jointly observe the commander level talks consensus and deescalate the tensions as soon as possible and safeguard the peace and tranquility,” Zhao said.

He blamed the Indian Army for the clash, saying “the right and wrong of this case is very clear and responsibility doesn’t lie with the Chinese side.”

Earlier on Thursday, Hua Chunying, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said Indian troops “deliberately” provoked and attacked Chinese officers and soldiers, “thus triggering fierce physical conflicts and causing casualties.”

“India must not misjudge the current situation or underestimate China’s firm will to safeguard its territorial sovereignty,” Hua tweeted.

Indian media reports indicated that troops on the tense border near the picturesque Galwan Valley in Ladakh, where the violence took place on Monday, and other frontiers with China were on high alert.

The two neighbors have been locked in a bitter standoff simmering for weeks now after India allegedly started constructing roads and an airstrip in the disputed Himalayan region, which is also claimed by Pakistan.

There have been reports of the two sides reinforcing their border defenses, raising fears about an extended military deadlock between the two.

The border dispute dates back to a brief 1962 war that ended in a truce with the two sides sticking to their claims along the mountainous 3,500 kilometers (nearly 2,175 miles) long boundary.

There have been several India-China face-offs in the last six decades but almost all of them ended peacefully.

The latest is the first that caused casualties after a 1975 clash along the LAC in the Tawang area of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, also claimed by China.

On Thursday, as the Indian Army began handing over the bodies of the fallen soldiers wrapped in the Indian flag to their families across 10 states, people lined on the streets to pay tearful adieu to the dead.

Emotions ran high with mourners shouting anti-China slogans, demanding justice, and urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to punish China.

A pall of gloom descended on the southern Indian town of Suryapet as the casket carrying the body of Colonel B. Santosh Babu was brought home with full military honors, including a gun salute.

Carrying national flags and placards reading “We salute the soldiers,” people shouted “Long Live Mother India” to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers.

Babu was the in-charge of the troops who were attacked by the Chinese soldiers in the deadliest border clash between the two rival neighbors in decades.

Soldier H.K. Palanie’s coffin was received by his wife, children, and dozens of mourners in his home village of Ramanathapuram, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The casket was showered with flowers with a larger-than-life poster of his photograph displayed on its front.

Similar emotional scenes played out on the streets of other Indian towns and cities as mortal remains of the soldiers were brought home.

Amid the raging anger against the alleged Chinese aggression, trade union leaders and some politicians called for boycotting Chinese products.

“At a time when China’s army in the most clandestine manner has committed a ‘barbaric attack’ on the Indian army at Ladakh border, the heart of every Indian is filled with deep anguish,” said a statement by the Confederation of All India Traders.

The trade body, which claims to represent 70 million traders and 40,000 associations in the country, urged Indian celebrities and film stars to stop endorsing Chinese products.

“Indian traders resolve to teach China a strong lesson by reducing Chinese imports (…) to stand in solidarity with (the country),” the statement said.

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