On a quiet visit to Ladakh designed to deliver a loud message to China, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told soldiers posted along the Line of Actual Control that the courage they had demonstrated had sent a message to the entire world. Addressing soldiers deployed in Ladakh, PM Modi said tales about their valour were being spoken in every house across the country.
‘The enemy has seen your fire and fury as well,’ PM Modi told the soldiers in an address telecast live from Ladakh to the country. PM Modi also referred to the violent clash between soldiers of India and China at Galwan on 15 June and paid his tributes to soldiers who laid down their lives.
“From Leh, Ladakh to Siachen and Kargil...and Galwan’s icy waters...every mountain, every peak is witness to the valour of Indian soldiers,” PM Modi said. “You have given a befitting reply to people who attempted to conquer,” he told them before going on to deliver his direct message to China.
PM Modi underscored that India had always pursued the path of peace in the world but at the same time, those who are weak can never initiate steps for peace. “Bravery and courage is a prerequisite for peace,” he said.
“We are the same people who pray to the flute playing Lord Krishna but we are also the same people who idolise and follow the same Lord Krishna who carries the ‘Sudarshana Chakra,” the Prime Minister said.
Without naming Beijing that has been trying to encroach into Indian territory in Galwan valley and Pangong Tso and create new boundary disputes, PM Modi said times had changed and the era of expansionism was over. This is the time for development, not expansion, he said.
PM Modi stayed on target and continued hurling darts at China. The expansionist policies of some countries had affected world peace, he said, a clear reference to China that has disputes with 21 of its neighbours.
But history records that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back, PM Modi said, delivering his final shot before wrapping up his surprise visit. PM Modi’s office had finalised the day-trip to Ladakh late last evening but kept it a closely-guarded secret till the last moment.
PM Modi, 69, headed straight for his briefing by top military commanders at the XIV Corps headquarters at Nimu outside Leh. He had had similar briefings back in Delhi also.
This time, PM Modi could see the Zanskar and the mighty Karakorams that he had been spotting on the maps during the briefings. He also interacted with the soldiers to give them pep talks and hear their perspectives before he came around to delivering his speech.
His arrival in Leh had already delivered the first set of messages to Beijing. It also contrasts India’s approach to the standoffs along the Line of Actual Control to Chinese leadership’s efforts to signal a hands-off approach.
The PM’s visit is also a very strong message to President Xi Jinping that either he gets his aggressive Western Theatre Commander Zhao Zongqi to restore status quo ante or accept the inevitable consequences of PLA escalation. The Indian Army and Chinese PLA are locked up at four points on the LAC in East Ladakh with the latter consolidating on ground while mouthing peace overtures.
The location at Nimu where PM Modi addressed soldiers from the army, air force, ITBP and border road organisation resembled an active forward base. “There were artillery guns and other heavy equipment all under camouflage with soldiers wearing helmets and sitting in trenches and other kinds of dug out positions with a rare glint of courage on their faces,” a top military commander said.
Referring to some veterans who taunted that Nimu is a picnic spot, the commander said it was “a picnic spot for those who have treated their tenures as picnics instead of doing serious soldiering. For them even Kargil and Pangong Tso are picnic spots. If only they had treated these locations as future combat zones, they would not dare to comment,” he said.
He said “age of expansionism is over” and countries across the world were united against expansionism and oriented towards an age of development and open competition.
Signalling that India would not be backing off from confrontation over defending its territory, he said, “bravery and courage is the underlying principle of establishing peace. For the world to progress, peace and amity are accepted by all in principle, but we also know that the weak can never enforce peace.” India’s character was such that while it prayed to a flute-playing Lord Krishna, it also prayed his Sudarshan chakra wielding avatar.
The government was committed to ramping up border infrastructure and its modernisation. It had increased spending on it by three times its earlier outlay, he pointed out to illustrate the earlier point on peace being enforceable only by the brave. “India is building modern infrastructure with the same underlying principle guiding it,” he said.
Mr. Modi quoted Tamil philosopher Thiruvalluvar, stating: “bravery, respect, dignified conduct and reliability are the defining characteristics of any army.” Many issues related to the combat readiness and the dignity of the armed forces, including defence procurement, the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff and the implementation of One Rank One Pension had been done by his government, he noted.
Quoting The Buddha, he added to the point of only the strong being able to enforce peace: “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.”
Mr. Modi made laudatory references to Rinpoche Kushop Bakula of Ladakh who, he said, had helped foster nationalist sentiment in the area and who was the inspiration behind raising the Ladakh Scouts infantry regiment.