PM, in Ladakh, warns China: ‘Age of expansioni­sm is over’

■ Modi pays trib­ute to Gal­wan mar­tyrs, vis­its in­jured: ‘Your courage is in­spir­ing’

The Asian Age - - Front Page - PAWAN BALI and YUSUF JAMEEL

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who made a sur­prise visit to Leh on Fri­day, said in an ad­dress to sol­diers de­ployed on China bor­der that “the era of expansioni­sm is over” and the valour shown by In­dian sol­diers at Gal­wan Val­ley on June 15 had told the world about In­dia’s strength.

In a warn­ing to China, which was try­ing to change the Line of Ac­tual Con­trol (LAC) at Pan­gong Tso and Gal­wan Val­ley, the PM, with­out nam­ing that coun­try, said expansioni­sm al­ways hurt world peace and his­tory was wit­ness that ex­pan­sion­ist pow­ers had ei­ther been de­feated or had to re­treat. “This is the era of de­vel­op­ment. The whole world has made up its mind against expansioni­sm,” Mr Modi said, ad­dress­ing the sol­diers at Nimu, a for­ward Army base 35 km east of Ladakh’s cap­i­tal Leh.

He said In­dia’s ene­mies had seen the courage of the Army’s Leh-based 14 Corps, also known as Fire and Fury Corps. “Our ene­mies have seen your fire and also your fury,” said the PM, wear­ing a 14 Corps cap. Cit­ing the Gita shloka Veer Bh­ogya Va­sund­hara (The brave shall in­herit the earth), which is also the motto of the Army’s Ra­jputana Ri­fles, the PM said the weak can never ini­ti­ate peace, as brav­ery is a pre­req­ui­site. He said In­dia was mod­ernising its weapons, up­grad­ing its in­fra­struc­ture and en­hanc­ing its strength in land, sea, air and space war­fare. Mr Modi’s as­ser­tions are seen as a strong and di­rect mes­sage to

Beijing af­ter the June 15 clash with troops of China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, in which 20 In­dian sol­diers were killed in the strate­gic Gal­wan Val­ley.

Mr Modi made an unan­nounced visit to Ladakh Fri­day to get first-hand in­for­ma­tion about the LAC sit­u­a­tion. He was ac­com­pa­nied by Chief of De­fence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat and Army Chief Gen. M.M. Nar­a­vane. He was briefed on mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness by top Army brass, in­clud­ing North­ern Com­mand chief Lt. Gen. Y.K. Joshi in Nimu. Nimu, on the In­dus’ banks, is sur­rounded by the Zan­skar range at an el­e­va­tion of 3,140 me­tres (10,300 ft), about 186 km short of Gal­wan Val­ley. The PM in­ter­acted with per­son­nel of the Army, Air Force and ITBP. He also met In­dian sol­diers in­jured in the clash with Chi­nese sol­diers on June 15 at the Leh Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal. “We

Ladakh is the head of the coun­try. This is the sym­bol of pride for 130 crore cit­i­zens of In­dia. This land be­longs to the peo­ple who are will­ing to make the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice

— Naren­dra Modi, Prime Min­is­ter

will never bow to any power of the world,” Mr Modi said.

Mr Modi’s Leh visit is also seen as a mes­sage to his do­mes­tic crit­ics who crit­i­cised his al­leged weak ap­proach to­wards China de­spite re­ports of its un­re­lent­ing ag­gres­sion at the LAC and bel­liger­ence in the Gal­wan Val­ley. It is also a huge morale booster to the armed forces that the gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple of the coun­try are fully back­ing them.

Ad­dress­ing sol­diers at Nimu, Mr Modi paid glow­ing trib­utes to the 20 In­dian sol­diers killed in the Gal­wan Val­ley, say­ing tales of their brav­ery and valour were echo­ing in every part of the coun­try. “Your courage is higher than the heights where you are serv­ing to­day… Not only me, the en­tire na­tion be­lieves in you,” he said. “Ladakh is the head of the coun­try. This is the sym­bol of pride for 130 crore cit­i­zens of In­dia. This land be­longs to the peo­ple who are will­ing to make the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice,” said Mr Modi. See­ing women Army of­fi­cers in the front row, the PM said: “I am look­ing at women sol­diers in front of me. In the bat­tle­field at the bor­der, this view is in­spir­ing.”

The gov­ern­ment ear­lier an­nounced that de­fence min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh would visit Ladakh on Fri­day, but this was later can­celled, and the PM in­stead flew to Leh.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ad­dresses In­dian troops dur­ing his visit to a for­ward post at Nimu in Ladakh on Fri­day. CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat is seen on the right.

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