Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance to opposition leaders that there is neither encroachment nor any grab of Indian border posts by the Chinese military in the Ladakh region indicates a welcome resolve to not allow the tense border situation to spin out of control, even if it comes at a political cost to himself, and possibly also contradicts statements from India's External Affairs Ministry. Last week's events in the heights of what was, until last August, India's Jammu and Kashmir state and is now a federally run territory, were shockingly gruesome. Troops from the two sides apparently even used clubs wrapped with barbed wire and poles spiked with nails to clobber each other in sub-zero temperatures.
The Ladakh Himalayas, the epicentre of current global attention, saw some of the worst fighting in the 1962 border war between the two countries. While there is occasional tension between the patrol parties of both sides when they come upon each other, no bullet has been fired in anger for all these years. Both sides have kept to understandings that they will approach each other with weapons pointing to the ground. Elsewhere, along their long undemarcated boundary, the last time shots were fired and lives lost was more than four decades ago. This makes the more than 20 Indian deaths, including that of a colonel, and possibly an equal number of Chinese lives lost, all the more tragic.