Without referring to China directly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Ladakh on Friday that the “age of expansionism” was over and countries across the world were now witnessing the era of development.
In a surprise visit to Ladakh, 17 days after Chinese troops killed 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley , the Prime Minister said India’s determination to protect its territory was “as high as the Himalayas”.
Mr. Modi’s visit came after three round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders to end contentious and violent face-offs between troops of the two sides. There are also reports of both countries building up troop levels along their long international boundary even as talks continue.
“Friends, the age of expansionism is over, this is the era of development…whenever we have seen expansionist tendencies, these have spelt danger for world peace,” he said, addressing troops in Nimu, a short distance from Leh town.
The Prime Minister, accompanied by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat and Army Chief Gen. M.M. Naravane, told the troops that their services to “mother India” were unmatched.
“Again, I pay my respects to the soldiers who were martyred in the Galwan Valley,” Mr. Modi said, stressing that the territory of Ladakh was symbolic of the self-respect of 130 crore Indians. “Every citizen is proud of your bravery.”
“Friends, everyone knows that the country, the world and humanity can only progress on the basis of peace and friendship,” he said in his Hindi address. “But we also know that peace cannot be ushered in by the weak. Only the brave can bring peace,” he noted.
Spending on boundary
Pointing to the improvement in infrastructure along the border, something that the Chinese are believed to be concerned about, he said spending on the boundary had increased three-fold.
India’s character was such that while it prayed to a flute playing Lord Krishna, it also prayed to his Sudarshan Chakra-wielding avatar, he observed.
Mr. Modi quoted Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar: “Bravery, respect, dignified conduct and reliability are the defining characteristics of any army.”
He also quoted the Buddha as saying, “Courage is related to conviction, courage is mercy and compassion, courage is that which makes us stand on the side of truth and do that which is right.”
The Prime Minister made laudatory references to Rinpoche Kushop Bakula of Ladakh who, he said, helped foster nationalist sentiment in the area and who was the inspiration behind raising the Ladakh Scouts infantry regiment.
“In the context of national security, I think of two mothers. One is Mother India and, the second, the brave mothers who have given birth to brave soldiers like you,” he stated.
Visits injured soldiers
Later, Mr. Modi visited the Leh military hospital and met the soldiers who were injured in the June 15 Galwan Valley clashes. He told them that those who laid down their lives didn’t depart without reason and that they all gave a befitting reply.
“A message has gone to the world about the valour shown by you braves. The way you stood up to the powers, the world wishes to know who are these braves? What is their training? What is their sacrifice? Today the whole world is analysing your bravery,” he added.