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India, China want peace but blame each other for deadly border clash

This article is more than 12 months old

Both sides want peace but blame each other for Monday's deadly clash

NEW DELHI/BEIJING : India and China said they wanted peace but blamed each other yesterday after soldiers from both sides savagely fought each other with nail-studded clubs and stones on their Himalayan border. India said at least 20 of its troops died.

"We never provoke anyone," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on national television, referring to Monday's hand-to-hand fighting.

"There should be no doubt that India wants peace, but if provoked, India will provide an appropriate response."

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the clash erupted after Indian soldiers "crossed the line, acted illegally, provoked and attacked the Chinese, resulting in both sides engaging in serious physical conflict and injury and death".

He did not know of any Chinese casualties, although Indian media quoted officials as saying at least 45 people were dead or injured on the Chinese side.

Mr Zhao said the overall situation at the border was stable and controllable.

Under an old agreement between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants, no shots are fired at the border, but there have been fisticuffs in recent years between border patrols.

According to Indian officials, soldiers were hit with clubs studded with nails and stones during a brawl that erupted in the remote Galwan Valley, high in the mountains where India's Ladakh region borders the Aksai Chin region captured by China during the 1962 war.

The rival armies have been eyeball-to-eyeball at their border for decades, but it was the worst clash since 1967, five years after China humiliated India in that war.

Mr Modi, a strident nationalist, was elected to a second five-year term in May last year following a campaign focused on national security after spiralling tensions with old enemy Pakistan on India's western border.

India's gung-ho media and the opposition piled pressure on him to respond aggressively.

"Gloves are off, with the Galwan Valley clash, China pushed too hard," the Times of India wrote in an editorial.

"India must push back. Beijing can't kill our soldiers at the border and expect to benefit from our huge market," it continued, advocating sanctions against Chinese imports.

'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH'

Mr Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, tweeted: "Enough is enough, We need to know what happened. How dare China kill our soldiers, how dare they take our land."

Hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops have been facing each other since early last month at three or four locations on the disputed border in the uninhabited, barren mountains of Ladakh.

India says Chinese troops have intruded into its side of the Line of Actual Control, or the de facto border.

China rejects the allegation and has asked India not to build roads in the area, claiming it to be its territory.

According to Indian government sources, the fighting on Monday night broke out during a meeting to discuss ways to de-escalate tensions, and the colonel commanding the Indian side was one of the first to be struck and killed. - REUTERS

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