India’s PM meets opposition in bid to ease China tension

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India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is meeting top opposition leaders as the government tries to lower tensions with China after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat in a Himalayan border region.

India and China accuse each other of instigating the fight this week in the Galwan Valley, part of the disputed Indian-administered Ladakh region.

It was the deadliest conflict between the two sides in 45 years. China has not said whether it suffered any casualties.

India’s Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh spoke to the heads of various political parties on Thursday to discuss a consensus on the situation.

Modi on Friday hosted the leaders of more than a dozen opposition parties in a virtual meeting.

The main opposition Congress party said the country deserves to know the truth. “It deserves a leadership that is willing to do anything before allowing its land to be taken,” it said in a statement.

India and China said they were communicating through military and diplomatic channels, and stressed the importance of their broader relationship.

Experts say the two nations were unlikely to head to war, but that easing tensions quickly will be difficult.

On Thursday, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Anurag Srivastava said Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will take part in a trilateral virtual meeting with Russia and China next week.

But the deadly Himalayan clash has also fanned growing anti-Chinese sentiments in India, which were already high because of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China late last year with India’s caseload climbing to fourth-highest in the world

Emotions were on display in the southern city of Hyderabad, where thousands watched the funeral procession of Colonel B Santosh Babu, one of the casualties in Monday’s clash.

An Indian business confederation called for a boycott of 500 Chinese goods, including toys and textiles, to express “strong criticism” of China’s action in Ladakh.