Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Nimu forward post in Ladakh. He said the era of expansionism was over, and it was now an era of development and open competition. Photo: PTI
Signalling a new government resolve in tackling multiple Chinese intrusions into Indian-claimed territory over the last two months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
visited Ladakh on Friday and addressed Indian troops there.
In his first visit to the Union Territory after 20 soldiers were killed on June 15 in a clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan River valley, Modi was accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, and army chief
General MM Naravane. He visited Indian troops who were in hospital, recovering from wounds sustained in that encounter.
Paying tribute to the jawans, Modi said Indians could go about their lives peacefully because they knew the armed forces were protecting the nation. Because of their exemplary bravery in recent weeks, the world has taken note of India’s strength, he said.
“Our country has never bowed down and will never bow down to any world power, and I’m able to say this because of braves like you,” said Modi. He said the soldiers came from all over India, but their bravery “now echoed in the mountains and valleys of Ladakh.”
Evoking the title of the Leh-based 14 Corps, which calls itself the ‘Fire and Fury Corps’, the PM said: “The enemies of India have seen the fire and fury of our soldiers.”
In a sharp message to Beijing, Modi stated: “The era of expansionism is over, this is now an era of development and open competition. In the last century, there are many examples of countries that had adopted an expansionist attitude and threatened world peace... (but) history is witness that they were wiped out or forced to retreat.” Modi cited the examples of Lord Krishna, who India worshipped in his flute-playing avatar as well as his Sudarshan Chakra wielding one.
Making it clear that India would not capitulate to China for the sake of peace, he said: “Bravery and courage are the underlying principles for creating peace… We know the weak can never enforce peace.”
Addressing the troops at the Nimu headquarters in the lap of the Zanskar Range, Modi said he had furthered India’s security readiness by ensuring availability of modern weaponry. On Thursday evening, just before his visit to Ladakh, the government had approved purchase of weapons and equipment worth Rs 39,800 crore.
The PM pointed out the government had expanded India’s network of border roads by raising the infrastructure budget threefold.
He listed out many achievements of the NDA government including creation of the post of CDS, constructing a “grand National
War Memorial,” implementing the principle of One Rank, One Pension and ensuring the well being of families of military personnel.
Soon after the PM’s speech, Beijing sought to calm the atmosphere. Responding to a question on Modi’s comments, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: “India and China are in communication and (there are on-going) negotiations on lowering the temperatures through military and diplomatic channels. No party should engage in any action that may escalate the situation at this point.”
Asked about Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s announcement that Chinese companies would not be allowed to build highways in India, Zhao replied: “Certain politicians in India have been issuing remarks that are detrimental to our bilateral relations recently… We will take necessary measures to uphold the legitimate rights of Chinese businesses in India.”
Striking a conciliatory tone, the spokesperson said: “India and China are major developing countries and accelerating renewal and development are important missions for us. We have to respect and support each other [and] follow the consensus reached between the leaders of our two countries… The Indian side should not have strategic miscalculation on China.”