(Update 1: Adds details of prime Minister’s address)
By Sarwar Kashani
New Delhi, Jun 19 (efe-epa).- Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that no border intrusion had taken place and no one had occupied Indian territory, days after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a deadly clash with China at a disputed mountainous boundary that escalated tensions between the two Asian powers.
“Nobody entered our territory, nor does anyone remain in our territory and none of our posts have been captured,” Modi said in his televised concluding remarks at a meeting with all major political parties to discuss the border tensions with China.
He emphasized that the nation stood with the soldiers and expressed solidarity with the families of the slain troops, praising their bravery.
“Twenty of our brave soldiers made the supreme sacrifice in Ladakh, but also taught a lesson to those who dared to look towards our motherland.”
While the prime minister acknowledged that there was widespread anger in the country against China’s actions, he stressed that the military was doing everything it could to protect the borders.
“While on one hand the armed forces have been given a free hand to take necessary steps, India has also conveyed its position clearly to China through diplomatic means. India wants peace and friendship, but defending our sovereignty is above all,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, some of the opposition leaders criticized the government’s approach despite unanimously expressing solidarity with its decisions.
Sonia Gandhi, president of the main opposition Indian National Congress, said the opposition was “still in the dark,” about “many crucial aspects” of the crisis and demanded assurance that China would revert to its original position.
The chief minister of the state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, asked if there had been an “intelligence failure” on the government’s part regarding the border intrusion, a claim denied by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.
Earlier in the day, military sources confirmed for the first time that 76 of its soldiers had also been wounded in hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops on Monday night.
“No one (among the injured soldiers) is critical as of now. All are stable,” an Indian Army source told EFE on the condition of anonymity.
He said that 18 soldiers were being treated at the military hospital in Leh, the capital of the federally-administered Ladakh region, while another 58 were admitted at other hospitals.
The army official said that the wounded troops were expected to recover and return to duty within 7-15 days.
The border region is at the heart of the military confrontation in the western Himalayas, after the deadly confrontation in the picturesque but inhospitable Galwan Valley on Monday night.
The tensions on the borders remain high despite the governments agreeing to de-escalate one of the worst military crises in decades between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants.
Officials from both sides on Thursday 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.
The two sides have been holding senior military-level talks without any breakthrough on how to defuse the tension, sources in New Delhi said.
Both India and China have been blaming each other for the violence and changing the status quo on the de-facto border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC).