India-China clash: Modi says soldiers' deaths 'will not be in vain'
The two nations have reached an agreement that weapons cannot be taken within two kilometers of the border
The Indian Prime Minister said that the deaths of at least 20 soldiers in a battle with Chinese troops in a contested border area in the Himalayas will "not be in vain."
Narendra Modi said India was "proud that our soldiers died fighting the Chinese" when there was a clash in the Ladakh region on Monday.
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Soldiers were reportedly fighting with sticks, bats, and bamboo sticks covered with nails. No shots were fired.
Both sides accused each other.
It is the first fatal clash between the two sides in the border area in the disputed Kashmir region for at least 45 years. It is still believed that some Indian soldiers are missing.
India's army said China had also suffered losses, but Beijing has given no details.
The Indian declaration states that injured soldiers "were exposed to sub-zero temperatures at high altitude".
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When each side exchanged allegations, India said China was trying to "unilaterally change the status quo." Beijing accused Indian troops of "attacking Chinese personnel".
The two armies later held talks to ease tensions.
The fighting took place in the steep, rocky terrain of the strategically important Galwan Valley, which lies between China's Tibet and India's Ladakh.
Indian media say soldiers are involved in direct hand-to-hand combat, some of which have been "beaten to death". During the fight, a newspaper reported, others fell or were pushed into a river.
Indian and Chinese soldiers
The Indian army initially said that a colonel and two soldiers had died. It was later said that "17 Indian troops who were seriously injured on duty" and died from their injuries increased the "total number of troops killed in the operation to 20".
"I understand that some [more] Indian soldiers have been missing. The Indian side is still working to release them from Chinese detention," defense analyst Ajai Shukla told the BBC.
The Indian armed forces appear to be inferior to Chinese troops.
A senior Indian military official told the BBC that there were 55 Indians against 300 Chinese, whom he called the "death squad."
"You hit our boys on the head with metal sticks wrapped in barbed wire. Our boys fought with their bare hands," said the officer, who did not want to be named.
His report, which has not been verified, is consistent with other reports in the Indian media that describe the ferocity of the struggle.
A satellite image of the Galwan Valley shows the rocky and barren terrain
The clash has led to protests in India in which people burned Chinese flags.
Prime Minister Modi first addressed the confrontation on Wednesday in a television speech and said: "India wants peace, but if India is provoked, it will be able to give an appropriate response no matter what the situation.
"The country will be proud that our soldiers have died fighting the Chinese."
He said he wanted to "assure the nation" that the loss of soldiers was "not in vain." "The most important thing for us is the unity and sovereignty of the country," he added.
China has accused India of crossing the Chinese border. The State Department said Wednesday it wanted to avoid further clashes, but did not release any further details.
It has not confirmed how many of its employees died or were injured. Robin Brant of the BBC in Beijing says that China has never issued a confirmation of military death outside of peacekeeping duties at the same time.
Our correspondent adds that on this occasion, China's propagandists may not want to ignite nationalist flames at home by making a big loss or admitting a significant and demoralizing loss.
This is not the first time that the two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought at the border without conventional firearms. India and China have a history of encounters and overlapping territorial claims along the more than 3,440 km long, poorly drawn Real Control Line (LAC) that separates the two sides.
India shows restraint
Analysis by Geeta Pandey, BBC News, Delhi
The Indian government's first comments on the violent conflict at the Chinese border came almost 24 hours after Tuesday's news program.
And Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues - the Secretary of Defense and the Home Secretary - have chosen their words carefully.
Typically boastful and awesome, this time Mr. Modi and his ministers have shown extreme caution in their public messages and mainly dealt with the loss of soldiers.
The prime minister said: "India wants peace, but if instigated, there can be an appropriate answer." However, this is aimed at its domestic political rivals and supporters rather than a warning to Beijing.
China is not Pakistan, and memories of the humiliating defeat in the 1962 war are all too real for mishap.
How tense is the area?
The LAC is poorly demarcated. The line can shift due to the presence of rivers, lakes and snow caps. The soldiers on both sides, representing two of the largest armies in the world, face each other in many places.
Border patrols have often clashed, leading to occasional brawls.
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The last fire on the border occurred in 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed in a remote passport in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Former diplomats described the clash differently as an ambush and an accident.
But no bullets have been fired since.
The basis for this is a bilateral agreement from 1996, which states that "no side may open fire ... carry out explosion operations or chase with weapons or explosives within two kilometers of the line of actual control".
However, there have been tense confrontations along the border in recent weeks. In May, Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows on the border to Lake Pangong, also in Ladakh, and in the northeastern state of Sikkim.
India has accused China of sending thousands of troops to the Ladwan-Galwan valley and says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers of its territory. Border disputes have not been resolved in several rounds of talks in the past three decades.
The two countries have only waged war until 1962, when India suffered a humiliating defeat.
There are several reasons why tensions are increasing again - but competing strategic goals are at the root.
The two countries have spent a lot of money and manpower on building roads, bridges, rail links, and airfields along the controversial border.
Both India and China see each other's construction efforts as calculated steps to gain a tactical advantage, and tensions often increase when either announces a major project.
After the recent clash between China and India, the United Nations urged both sides to "exercise maximum restraint".
"We take positive note of the reports that the two countries have committed to de-escalate the situation," said Eri Kaneko, a UN associate spokesman.
India also contests part of Kashmir - an ethnically diverse Himalayan region with an area of approximately 140,000 km² - with Pakistan.
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