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India Returns Captured China Soldier in Sign of Easing Tensions

作者:admin 2020-10-22

Indian forces have surged to the frontier, high in the Himalayas, following a series of incursions by China that began in April into mountainous terrain that India claims as its own, escalating a border dispute that has simmered for decades.

Violence erupted in June, when Chinese and Indian soldiers fought with clubs and other makeshift weapons. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed, as well as an undisclosed number of Chinese. Soldiers have repeatedly confronted each other since then, and at least one other soldier died after stepping on a land mine.

Both sides have sent reinforcements to the border, settling in for the winter dangerously close to each other, in many places only a few hundred yards apart. In September, a few shots were fired for the first time in decades, breaking a longstanding agreement not to use firearms during border confrontations.

The clash has whipped up nationalist fervor on both sides of the border and derailed relations that had in recent years shown signs of warming, leaving little room for the countries’ leaders, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, to make concessions.

In September, though, the foreign ministers of the two countries announced a five-point agreement to defuse the immediate standoff, if not the underlying territorial disputes. Since then, Indian and Chinese military officials have held a series of discussions that appear to have made some progress in avoiding new violence. An eighth round of talks is scheduled this week.

The Indian Army, in disclosing the soldier’s detention on Monday, said that it had given him food, warm clothes, oxygen and medical care to “protect him from the vagaries of extreme altitude and harsh climatic conditions.” Conditions along the frontier — where the elevation exceeds 14,000 feet — have become even more forbidding with the onset of winter.

The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party of China that often assumes a nationalist tone, welcomed the soldier’s release on Wednesday, calling it a “positive sign” ahead of the next round of talks.

Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from New Delhi.

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