Furious members of Mr Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are calling for the annexation of China-controlled territory in Aksai Chin, the easternmost part of the disputed Ladakh region. A tense six-week stand-off boiled over into violence on Monday night when soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army attacked Indian troops with iron rods, nail-studded bamboo clubs, barbed wire and rocks.
The clashes left 20 Indian soldiers dead and there were allegations their bodies were mutilated and tossed into a freezing river by their Chinese attackers.
Satellite images suggest that in the days leading up to the clash, China brought in heavy machinery, cut a trail into the mountainside and may have even dammed a river.
The brutal deaths of the Indian troops has unleashed a wave of anger and anti-Chinese sentiment across India.
Defence expert Ajai Shukla said: “Such barbarism must be condemned. This is thuggery, not soldiering.”
Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, MP for the region of Ladakh, said: “We want a one-time solution. Not just the people of Ladakh but people of the country too want a one-time solution.
“After the sacrifice of our soldiers, I am starting to think the time has come to take Aksai Chin back.”
Former opposition leader Rahul Gandhi also demanded stronger retribution from Mr Modi’s government.
He said: “It is now clear that China has committed an unforgivable war crime.
“The Chinese have used bayonets, nail studded iron rods, wooden clubs wrapped with barbed wire to mount a surprise attack on our unarmed soldiers.”a.
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Tension with China, whose economy is five times bigger than India’s and which spends three times as much money on its military, has become Mr Modi’s most serious foreign policy challenge since he took power in 2014.
A strident nationalist, Mr Modi was elected to a second five-year term in May 2019 following a campaign focused on national security after spiralling tensions with Pakistan, on India’s western border.
He is now under immense pressure from the opposition and media to respond strongly to China.
The prime minister plans to will hold an all-party meeting in New Delhi to discuss the crisis tonight.
Having actively sought greater economic engagement with China, Mr Modi is now being pressured into review those ties, just as Sino-US relations have also deteriorated.
As a non-aligned nation, India has always sought to balance the influence of super-powers.
But in the past two decades, New Delhi has built closer political and defence ties with Washington, and the United States has become one of India’s top arms suppliers.
Now some senior former Indian diplomats are calling for an even tighter relationship with the United States and its allies to help face the economic and military might of China.