With his visit to Nimu near Leh, which houses the XIV Corps headquarters including the base hospital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accomplished several objectives. He visited soldiers injured during the Galwan clash of June 15 , addressed troops involved in the stand-off with China, and was briefed directly by senior officers involved in operational preparedness who are also conducting military talks with China’s People’s Liberation Army. In his speech to soldiers at Nimu, he addressed different audiences as well, with the biggest message for the Chinese leadership, where he said that the age of expansionism is over. Calling this the “era of evolution” or development ( Vikasvaad ), Mr. Modi said that the “era of colonial expansion” ( Vistaarvaad ) is over . He said that in the past, expansionist forces have done great harm to humanity, and had been “erased or forced to relent”. The message to Beijing was this: it must not engage in territorial aggression across its boundaries with countries from Central Asia to the South China Sea, including India, and it must also recall its own anger against imperialism, that so many in the PRC’s leadership have decried. Despite the fact that he did not once name China, the message appeared to have hit home, with the Chinese Embassy in Delhi issuing a denial that it had made any expansionist moves. The Prime Minister also addressed other countries that are viewing the growing seriousness of the two-month long stand-off with concern, as he spoke about India’s tradition of peace with bravery, indicating that diplomatic options would be exhausted before any action. To his domestic audience, the address signified the government’s determination to face the challenge at the Line of Actual Control and to focus on national priorities of infrastructure and economic development. Finally, he addressed the soldiers themselves, as he spoke of the valour of the men who have been engaged in the clashes along the LAC, including the Galwan confrontation in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
In all three aspects of the address, the speech must be welcomed, and its unspoken messages should also be studied closely. While the Prime Minister’s decision to visit troops near the LAC was well-timed and apt, it also raised the temperature of the India-China engagement, and indicates that military talks for disengagement and the dispersal of the massive mobilisation of troops on both sides, have not made much progress. The contrast in his tone from just two weeks ago, when he reassured the nation that “neither has anyone transgressed, nor is anyone inside Indian territory”, indicates that the situation is far more serious than was previously understood. It is to be hoped that the government, which has thus far not given the nation the full picture on what has happened, and what the nation needs to prepare for, will do so now, further clarifying the Prime Minister’s core message at Leh.