China returned ten captured soldiers to India on Friday following deadly clashes between the two nations’ militaries in the Himalayan border region, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Two senior Indian officials told the Journal that China had released the captured soldiers unharmed, although the Indian military refused to publicly confirm or deny the action. India’s defense establishment is reportedly weighing a response to the clashes in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, although such a move has not yet been approved.
“Nobody is talking of a full-blown war or conflict but China needs to be unequivocally told that India is not a pushover, militarily or otherwise,” a source told the Times of India. “It cannot keep on unilaterally changing the status quo in the border areas and nibbling away at our territory.”
The fight occurred in Ladakh, a region of Kashmir in the Himalayan mountains that is the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between India, China, and Pakistan.
“Both China and India are going to continue building up their presence on the border,” Zack Cooper, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in China, told National Review. “But China starts in a much stronger position because they have invested in the logistical infrastructure to move in large units much more quickly.”
The clashes on Monday evening saw Chinese and Indian soldiers fighting with rocks, fists, and clubs wrapped in barbed wire. India reported over 70 injured soldiers in addition to 20 killed, while China has not disclosed if its troops suffered any casualties.
Agreements between China and India forbid soldiers manning the border to carry firearms, and there have been no deaths in clashes between the two militaries since 1975. Previous clashes in 1962 led to the Sino-Indian War of that year.
Protests against China have flared up across India following the latest confrontation, with demonstrators calling to boycott Chinese goods.
“There is a lot of anger among Indians after the violent face-off killed our soldiers,” Shahnawaz Hussain, a spokesman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, told the Journal. “We are a responsible nation, but in a democracy people have their rights to express displeasure and anguish.”