SRINAGAR, INDIA (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unannounced visit yesterday to a military base in remote Ladakh region bordering China where the soldiers of the two countries have been facing off for nearly two months.
Modi, accompanied by India’s military leadership, interacted with troops as he sat in a camouflage tent at a military base, a photo uploaded on Modi’s Instagram account showed. “Interacting with our brave armed forces personnel,” he wrote.
Modi’s visit comes in the backdrop of massive Indian army build-up in Ladakh region following hand-to-hand combat between Indian and Chinese soldiers on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and dozens injured, the worst military confrontation in over four decades between the Asian giants.
Indian officials said there were casualties on the Chinese side as well, but there has been no confirmation by Beijing. No other details of Modi’s visit were available.
Indian officials said the current standoff began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside Indian-controlled territory at three places in Ladakh, erecting tents.
They said the soldiers ignored repeated verbal warnings, triggering a yelling match, stone-throwing and even fistfights in at least one place along Pangong Lake, the site of several such confrontations in the past.
But the situation turned deadly on June 15 when the rival soldiers engaged in a nightly clash in Galwan Valley. Since the confrontation, India has sent huge reinforcements of soldiers, military equipment and fighter jets into the already highly militarised region.
The disputed border covers nearly 3,500 kilometres of frontier that the two countries call the Line of Actual Control and that stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the northeast.