“The enemies of India have seen the fire and fury of our forces,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during his surprise visit to Leh, Ladakh, to interact with the Army, Air Force and ITBP personnel stationed at Nimu. “The age of expansionism is over; we are now in an age of development and open competition,” the PM said.
“History is rife with examples of countries that had adopted an expansionist attitude and threatened world peace but were eventually either destroyed or had to beat an ignominious retreat,” he added. Modi also visited the soldiers injured during the clash with Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley on June 15 at the military hospital.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew on Friday into the northern border region where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a stand-off, and said the military stood ready to defend his country. His comments prompted Beijing to call for restraint at the tense border area in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh.
Modi, making his first trip to the Ladakh region since the Indian army lost 20 soldiers in a clash with Chinese soldiers last month, said his country’s commitment to peace should not be seen as a sign of weakness.
“Today India is becoming stronger, be it in naval might, air power, space power and the strength of our army. Modernization of weapons and upgradation of infrastructure has enhanced our defense capabilities multifold,” he said in a speech to soldiers near Leh, the regional capital.
India says Chinese troops have intruded across the Line of Actual Control, or the ceasefire line separating the two armies in the high altitude Ladakh region, and the clash on June 15 occurred because Chinese troops sought to erect defenses on India‘s side of the de facto border.
China says the whole of the Galwan valley where the clash occurred is its territory and that it was frontline Indian troops that had breached the border, which is not demarcated. China’s foreign ministry said on Friday the two countries were holding talks to reduce tensions.
Spokesman Zhao Lijian, responding to a question about Modi’s visit to the border region, said both sides were in communications through diplomatic and military channels to ease the situation. “In these circumstances, neither side should take actions that might complicate the border situation,” he said at a daily news briefing in Beijing.
The most serious crisis on the India-China border in years has erupted while Beijing is embroiled in disputes over the South China Sea, Taiwan and its tightening grip over Hong Kong, which have all fanned fears of an expansionist policy.
In a separate development, India‘s power ministry stipulated that Indian companies will need government permission to import power supply equipment and components from China, amid rising military tensions between the two countries.
In Beijing, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said “artificially setting up barriers” for trade “not only violates WTO rules, but also hurts India’s interests”. He was responding to a question on union minister Nitin Gadkari’s statement about blocking Chinese firms from highway projects. “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese businesses,” he added. He said the two countries should work to meet the “consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and uphold overall bilateral relations”. “India should avoid a strategic miscalculation with regard to China.”
Chinese embassy in India, in a tweet, said the accusation of “expansionism” is “groundless”. “China has demarcated boundary with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation. It’s groundless to view China as ‘expansionist’, exaggerate and fabricate its disputes with neighbors,” the tweet said.
A sign of China’s expansionist agenda is clear as the Chinese spokesperson criticized Japan (on Senkaku islands), the Philippines (Paracel Islands), Australia (on an APSI report on China) and the United States at the same press briefing. China also conflicts with Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia in the South China Sea.