Chinese dictator Xi Jinping has been curiously quiet about the conflict between Chinese and Indian troops along their contested border.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a fierce and defiant statement about the clash while Indian and Chinese diplomats worked on de-escalating. Xi contented himself with chairing a summit on coronavirus cooperation in Africa.
Xi’s address to the Africa summit in Beijing made no mention of China’s troubles with India. Instead, he pushed China’s propaganda line that the coronavirus plague was a shining moment for Chinese science and organization, inviting his African guests to express their gratitude for all the help China provided during the worst days of the pandemic.
Modi, in contrast, issued a fierce statement on Wednesday in which he insisted India will not yield in its territorial claims, its people are proud of the 20 or so Indian soldiers who died fighting the Chinese, and India is ready to fight again if provoked.
“I would like to assure the nation that the sacrifice of our jawans will not be in vain. For us, India’s unity and sovereignty is the most important and no one can stop us from protecting it. No one should have a doubt on this point. India wants peace but is capable of a befitting reply in every circumstance,” Modi said. “Jawans” means “young soldiers.”
The Chinese government has been notably reluctant to reveal how many of its own soldiers died in the battle, which was fought with fists, rocks, metal rods, and nail-studded bamboo poles, but not guns or other military hardware.
Appearing alongside Modi, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh described the deaths of Indian soldiers in the clash as “deeply disturbing and painful.”
“The nation will never forget their bravery and sacrifice. My heart goes out to the families of the fallen soldiers. The nation stands shoulder to shoulder with them in this difficult hour. We are proud of the bravery and courage of India’s bravehearts,” he said.
“The pain of losing our brave soldiers while protecting our motherland at Ladakh’s Galwan can not be put in words. Nation salutes our immortal heroes who sacrificed their lives to keep Indian territory safe and secure. Their bravery reflects India’s commitment towards her land,” added Home Minister Amit Shah.
China has done most of its talking about the incident through its foreign ministry, which might be a way of downplaying the threat India poses to Chinese interests, or possibly a way to avoid admitting that China lost even more soldiers than India during the fight.
The Indians are making notable efforts to get Xi personally involved in the crisis. The day of the deadly scuffle between Indian and Chinese troops happened to be Xi Jinping’s birthday. For the first time since 2016, Modi declined to send birthday greetings to Xi.
Indian demonstrators on Wednesday burned Xi in effigy, while online they turned to the time-honored tactic of taunting Xi by comparing him to Winnie-the-Pooh. Xi dislikes being measured against the tubby cartoon bear so much that Pooh is completely banned in China.