China frees 10 Indian soldiers after military talks

Updated 19 Jun 2020

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Indian Army clarified in a statement that there are “no Indian troops missing in action”. — AFP/File
Indian Army clarified in a statement that there are “no Indian troops missing in action”. — AFP/File

NEW DELHI: Three days after clashes in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh left 20 Indian soldiers dead, the Chinese on Thursday evening released 10 Indian Army personnel, including a Lieutenant Colonel and three Majors, from their custody, The Hindu said.

It quoted an unnamed security source as saying that all 10 persons were released around 5pm after an agreement was reached at the Major General-level talks on Wednesday evening and they were returned unharmed.

Separately, the Indian Army clarified in a statement that there were “no Indian troops missing in action”, The Hindu said.

In another development, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said the Indian troops, who were outnumbered and attacked by the Chinese side, carried arms.

Meanwhile, New Delhi confirmed that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar would join trilateral talks with Chinese and Russian counterparts on Tuesday.

India’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that Jaishankar would indeed participate in the meeting.

The prospects of the talks have lifted hopes of defusing the month-long crisis on an inhospitable Sino-Indian border. India is scheduled to host a meeting of the heads of governments of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation later this year.

The special meeting of the three-member group was initially called by Russia, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II and the founding of the United Nations.

The virtual conference involving India’s Jaishankar, Sergey Lavrov of Russia and Wang Yi of China was postponed from March following the Covid-19 pandemic.

China says it is enjoying a golden period of relationship with Russia currently, and Russian warships have patrolled in solidarity with China in the South China Sea.

It is worth pondering if that could make India re-think its strategy of aligning with the US-led anti-China quad that Beijing has frowned on.

Indian analysts have described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s current strategy as one of “standing on two stools”, one stool being the Shanghai club and the other the emerging US-led bid to contain China. Defence hardware that India deploys on the China border comes from both groups.

In the meantime, anti-China protests were staged across India and many have led to calls for boycotting Chinese goods.

But unlike Mahatma Gandhi’s swadeshi campaign to discard British goods, owners of expensive Chinese mobile phones may find it hard to abandon the sets.

A politician aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party has proposed that Chinese food and Chinese restaurants also should be banned.

Amid calls for stalling Chinese investments, India’s cricket body has emerged as a worried entity. The Board of Cricket for Cricket in India (BCCI) said it was open to reviewing its sponsorship policy for the next cycle but has no plans to end its association with current IPL title sponsor Vivo as the money coming in from the Chinese company is helping India’s cause and not the other way round.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2020