NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday paid a surprise visit to Ladakh to take stock of the situation on the ground, weeks after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops in the Himalayan region along the disputed border between the two countries.
The visit is significant as it will not only boost the morale of Indian soldiers posted there but will also send a strong political message to Beijing that New Delhi is serious about resolving the issue.
Modi has come under criticism from opponents over his handling of the border standoff with China. His latest move also sends a message to Beijing over what is seen in India as a Chinese incursion into its territory.
Modi was accompanied by chief of defense staff Gen. Bipin Rawat and army chief Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane, and briefed by senior officers at Nimu in Ladakh, local ANI news agency reported. The region is 11,000 feet (3,335 meters) above sea level, in rough terrain on the banks of the Indus river.
India and China have been working through diplomatic and military channels to ease tensions, but no major progress has been reported so far. The two sides have blamed each other for the deadly June 15 clash, the first fatal confrontation between the two countries in 45 years.
India says there were casualties on the Chinese side as well, but Beijing has not released any figures. The 3,500 km Line of Actual Control serves as the de facto border, over which the two countries fought a war in 1962.
Modi’s visit comes a day after the Defense Ministry approved procurement of fighter jets, missile systems and other military equipment at a cost of 389 billion rupees ($5.2 billion).