Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday questioned Defence Minister Rajnath Singh over the violent clashes between Indian and Chinese troops that left 20 Indian personnel dead in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.

Earlier in the day, Singh said that the loss of soldiers was “deeply disturbing and painful”. This was the first comment by a Cabinet minister in the government after Monday’s incident.

Gandhi asked the defence minister why it took him two days to condole the deaths, along with four other questions. “If it was so painful, why insult Indian Army by not naming China in your tweet,” he tweeted. “Why take two days to condole? Why address rallies as soldiers were being martyred? Why hide and get the Army blamed by crony media? Why make paid-media blame Army instead of GOI [government of India]?”

This is the first instance of casualties on the Line of Actual Control since 1975. It came amidst a “de-escalation” process in the Galwan area that was started last week, after a month-long standoff between troops at several points along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and Sikkim. Though some reports have said there around 40 Chinese soldiers died during these clashes, there is no official confirmation yet.

Earlier in the day, the Congress leader also offered his condolences to the soldiers who died. Gandhi had questioned the prime minister’s silence on the matter at that time.

Hours later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the sacrifice of Indian soldiers killed would not go in vain. “India wants peace but is capable of giving befitting reply, if instigated,” Modi said. He made the comments as part of his opening remarks to chief ministers during the video conference to discuss the coronavirus situation in the country. Modi added that India will protect every inch of its territory and its sovereignty, but did not speak about the events that took place on Monday night. An all-party meet has been scheduled for June 19 to discuss the situation.

Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that the incident in Galwan was a “pre-meditated and planned action” by China, which led to the violence. Wang told Jaishankar that India should severely punish those responsible for the conflict and control its frontline troops. Both the countries have agreed to de-escalate the situation after the foreign ministers spoke to each other.

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India-China tensions

Tensions between the two countries heightened in May after Chinese troops clashed with the Indian Army at several points along the Line of Actual Control.

The dispute between India and China centres around a strategic bridge being built near Daulat Beg Oldi, a military post south of the Karakoram Pass. China has reportedly asked India to stop building infrastructure even on its own side of the LAC. New Delhi, on the other hand, has asked Beijing to maintain the status quo on the border.

Earlier in May, there were reports of China pitching tents near river Galwan, which was also a flashpoint between New Delhi and Beijing during the Sino-Indian war of 1962. Both India and China had deployed additional security forces in the area amid heightened tensions.