Indian and Chinese commanders meet as tensions remain high after deadly clash

Keegan Elmer

Chinese and Indian commanders have met on the Indian side of their disputed frontier for their second round of talks after a deadly clash earlier this month between the two sides.

Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Indian Army’s 14 Corps, and Major Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region, met on Tuesday as both sides continued to mass troops on either side of the line.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Indian-controlled Chushul outpost, near Pangong Tso lake, followed an 11-hour meeting on June 22 on the Chinese side, where the two agreed to try to ease tensions inflamed by a deadly clash on June 15. The two sides had previously met just over a week before the fatal skirmish, again on the Chinese side.

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At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and the Chinese suffered an unspecified number of casualties during the incident in the Galwan Valley.

The two countries have a long-running border dispute and even the Line of Actual Control that separates the territory held by each side is undefined, raising the risk of flashpoints.

The incident has fired nationalist sentiment in both countries, which may make it harder to reach a settlement.

Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said Tuesday’s talks were held slightly earlier than expected, which suggested that last week’s meeting did not end on a positive note.

“The political leadership is not cooling down, and not much has happened in terms of disengagement. Instead, there’s been a massive mobilisation on both sides,” he said.

Kondapalli said diplomats from both sides had taken “surprisingly stiff” positions following the talks between the military leaders.

Sun Weidong, the Chinese ambassador to New Delhi, said Indian troops were to blame for crossing into Chinese territory, telling the Press Trust of India news agency that “the onus is not on China”.

Meanwhile, India’s ambassador Vikram Misri warned of “ripples and repercussions” for the countries’ relationship, saying it was “entirely the responsibility of China” to decide how it wanted ties between the countries to develop.

Calls for a boycott of Chinese goods are growing across India, and businesses have started to report that imports are being delayed at Indian ports.

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On Monday, the Indian government also banned a total of 59 Chinese apps, including the popular video-sharing platform TikTok, Baidu Maps and WeChat.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the loss of the soldiers, adding: “A self-reliant India would be a tribute to our martyrs in the truest, deepest sense.”

Wang Dehua, a South Asia specialist at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, said the clash had given a platform to those in India who favoured a hardline approach towards China, which added to the difficulty of resolving the dispute.

“Modi has overcommitted himself to an aggressive stance on China, and anti-China sentiment in India is on the rise,” he said.

“It’s impossible to say what they will talk about at the meeting today, but it hopefully will be a slow process of alternating discussion and de-escalation.”

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