New Delhi: In a surprise move, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi today visited Ladakh, where the Indian Army has been forced into a face-to-face confrontation by the aggressive actions of Chinese People’s Liberation Army troopers, and sent across the message to China that the time for expansionist tendencies are over.
Modi, who travelled to Nimu in Ladakh in the first part of today to interact with the Indian soldiers at a location surrounded by the Zanskar range on the banks of the River Indus, also said that the South Asian nation’s commitment to peace should not be seen as its weakness.
The Indian top leader’s visit came amidst a military build-up on the Indian and the Chinese side of the borders in Ladakh following violent clashes and aggressive behaviour by the soldiers in the last two months.
The prime minister met the top leadership of the Indian armed forces, including Chief of Defence Staff General General Bipin Rawat, Indian Army chief General General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Y. K. Joshi and 14 ‘Fire and Fury’ Corps Commander Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, who has on three occasions last month met with his Chinese counterpart Major General Liu Lin to negotiate border peace.
The prime minister got a direct, in-person briefing on the present military situation in Ladakh from Lt Gen. Harinder Singh, and later interacted with personnel of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, who are all currently engaged in guarding the 1,500-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and the air space over it.
The prime minister said due to the exemplary bravery of the Indian armed forces in the recent weeks, the world has taken note of India’s strength, without directly mentioning either China. He recalled that Galwan Valley June 15 night violent clashes between the Indian and Chinese soldiers that left 20 on the Indian side and nearly 40 on the Chinese side dead.
He said that those soldiers who died belonged to all parts of India and epitomise India‘s ethos of bravery.
Modi said, “be it Leh–Ladakh, Kargil or the Siachen Glacier, be it the high mountains or the icy cold water that flows in the rivers, these are testimony to the gallantry of India’s armed forces. The enemies of India have seen the fire and fury of our forces.”
The prime minister spoke at length about how the virtues of “peace, friendship and courage” have been a part of India’s culture and recalled that India has “always given a befitting reply to anyone who has tried to disturb the prevailing atmosphere of peace and progress.”
“India is committed to peace and friendship but this commitment to peace should not be seen as India’s weakness. Today, India is becoming stronger, be it in naval might, air power, space power and the strength of our army. Modernisation of weapons and upgradation of infrastructure has enhanced our defence capabilities multifold.”
Modi recalled that Indian soldiers had a long history of bravery and competence in global military campaigns, including in the two World Wars.
“The time for expansionism is over. This is the era of development. It is this mindset of expansionism that did great harm,” he said, in a direct message to China to stop flexing its muscles in Ladakh along the de facto border with India.
Modi said in the last few years, several steps have been taken for the well-being of India’s forces and furthering India’s security preparedness. He also mentioned the efforts to strengthen the national security apparatus and to ensure the well-being of our armed forces.
This includes ensuring availability of modern weaponry, increased border infrastructure, border area development and expanding the roads network. He further shared that expenditure on border infrastructure has been enhanced three times.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, reacting to Modi’s Ladakh visit, said: “India and China are in communication and 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.”