India’s relations with its largest neighbor have been tested by issues such as Tibet, Pakistan and the countries’ shared Himalayan border.

This border blew up into renewed conflict, in the bloodiest engagement in 40 years, which left more than 20 soldiers dead after a brutal fight with fists and clubs high in the mountains amid freezing temperatures and scant oxygen

“The sacrifice made by our soldiers will not go in vain,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday. “India’s integrity and sovereignty is supreme for us, and no one can stop us from defending it. Nobody should have an iota of doubt about this. India wants peace. But when provoked, India will give a befitting reply.”

Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress Party, put it more bluntly: “How dare China kill our soldiers? How dare they take our land?”

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