By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: As India celebrated its 74th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a strong message for neighbours China and Pakistan that the South Asian nation will not tolerate any challenge to its sovereignty.
“From the LoC (Line of Control with Pakistan) to the LAC (Line of Actual Control with China), whoever has raised eyes on India’s sovereignty, the nation and its army has responded in the same language. Respect for India’s sovereignty is supreme for us. What our brave soldiers can do for this resolution, what the country can do, the world has seen this in Ladakh,” Modi said while addressing the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort without naming any country.
The comment came amidst a bitter China-India face off along the LAC in eastern Ladakh and Pakistan continuing to violate the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.
Still, the hint was obvious as it referred to the June 15 deadly clashes between the armies of India and China in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, where China has not implemented a mutually agreed military disengagement along the LAC.
The hand-to-hand fight that started when Indian Army tried to stop the Chinese People’s Liberation Army troopers from violating the LAC left 20 Indian soldiers dead while unconfirmed reports said the PLA too suffered over 40 casualties.
The Indian Army has been matching the PLA aggressive posturing along the LAC in eastern Ladakh since May while the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which is also deployed along the India-China border region, too fought and hit the PLA troopers hard, as the citations of their gallantry awards released on the eve of the Independence Day revealed.
The Indian Army’s gallantry list does not include the names of personnel who exhibited bravery in Ladakh during the frequent clashes that have happened there with the PLA troopers since May this year, including those who died in the June 15 Galwan Valley clash.
Talking of national security, the prime minister highlighted the need to improve infrastructure in the border and coastal areas. “Be it the Himalayan peaks or the islands of the Indian Ocean, today there is an unprecedented expansion of road and internet connectivity in the country,” said Modi.
In fact, India is shoring up infrastructure along the LAC and this is one of the reasons that China feels threatened by the South Asian nation’s growing military capability along the de facto border.
Taking a cue from China, its protege Pakistan too stepped up shelling along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and resumed pushing terrorists to the Indian side to disrupt peace in the region.
Another factor that riled both China and Pakistan was India’s move last year to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution of India and the bifurcate the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state into two Union Territories, including Ladakh. The two Union Territories turned one on Aug. 5.
“This year is the year of a new development journey of Jammu and Kashmir. This year is the year of rights for women and Dalits in Jammu and Kashmir! It is also a year of the dignified life of refugees in Jammu and Kashmir,” Modi said.
“It is a matter of pride for all of us that the representatives of the local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir are pushing forward a new era of development with activism and sensitivity.”
Turning Ladakh into a Union Territory was an old demand of the local residents, the prime minister said and noted that the Himalayan region is moving forward to touch new heights of development.
On the lines of Sikkim, India’s state that shares border with China and making a mark as an organic state, Ladakh will be known as a carbon neutral region, the prime minister said.
Talking of securing India’s borders, the prime minister said that the National Cadet Corps will be expanded to 173 border and coastal districts, and special training will be given to about 100,000 new cadets, one third of which will be women.
To counter threats emanating from hostile nations, India is finalising a new cyber security policy. On the lines of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean, Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands in the Arabian Sea too will be connected with the mainland through an undersea Optic Fibre Cable in the next 1,000 days, the prime minister said.