The nuclear-armed neighbours today blamed each other for violating the Line of Actual Control – the de facto border running through the western Himalayan valley which was created after a brief war in 1962. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sought to downplay Monday’s clashes but his nationalist government has accused the Chinese side of seeking to erect structures “just across the Line of Actual Control,” and refusing India’s request to stop.
Beijing responded by laying claim to the entire valley and rejected claims it had violated an agreement over the disputed territory.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “The Galwan Valley is located on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary.”
He said Indian troops had illegally entered the area in early May, sparking the tense stand-off which led to last Monday night’s deadly midnight battle.
China has not said whether its side suffered any casualties, but reports have suggested the number of casualties could be as high as 43.
Both sides have moved extra troops onto the volatile Galwan Valley and are setting up significant strategic positions amid fears of further escalations.
Satellite images suggest China has brought in heavy machinery, cut a trail into the mountainside and may have even diverted a river.
Mr Modi is coming under increasing pressure to strike back at China but on a diplmatic level New Delhi and Beijing appear to be trying to cool tensions.
The Prime Minister said: “Nobody has intruded into our border, neither is anybody there now, nor have our posts been captured.”
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But 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.
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.”
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.