During his unannounced visit to Ladakh amidst the tense border situation with China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday interacted with the soldiers injured in the Galwan faceoff last month. He told them that their bravery will be a “source of inspiration for times to come” and added that 130 crore Indians are proud of them.
“The bravehearts who left us, have not gone without a reason. Together, you all also gave a befitting reply (karara jawab bhi diya hai),” he told the injured soldiers while interacting with them at an army hospital in Leh.
Interacting with our brave Jawans, who do everything to protect our nation. https://t.co/704f7Q9Fu4
In the worst flare-up on the Line of Actual Control in more than five decades, 20 Indian Army personnel, including the commanding officer of 16 Bihar Regiment, were killed on June 15 in violent clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan valley where disengagement of troops on either side was underway. Beijing has acknowledged that there were Chinese “casualties” too in the Galwan Valley.
Earlier, addressing personnel of the Army, Air Force and ITBP at Nimu, PM Modi sent out a clear message to China and said that the “era of expansionism is over”. “This is the era of development… History has proved that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back,” he added. The Prime Minister also said that bravery is a pre-requisite for peace and that those who are weak can never initiate peace.
Modi, accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane, arrived at Nimu earlier this morning. This was the first high profile visit from the executive leadership to the region ever since the border standoff erupted in early May. Read in Bangla and Malayalam here.
Addressing the soldiers, Modi said: “Your courage is higher than the heights where you are posted today. When the safety of the country is in your hands, then there is a belief. Not only me, but the entire nation believes in you and is not worried. You inspire every citizen to work day and night. Our resolve for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) has become stronger because of you and your strong resolve. The valour shown by you has shown India’s strength on the global front.”
He added: “India’s enemies have seen your fire and fury. Those who are weak can never initiate peace. Bravery is a pre-requisite for peace. Your will power is as strong and firm as Himalayas; the whole country is proud of you.”
Besides the injured soldiers, Modi also met the local military leadership, including Lt. General Harinder Singh, XIV Corps Commander.
Situated at a height of 11,000 feet, Nimu is among the tough terrains. It lies on the banks of the river Indus and is surrounded by the Zanskar range.
While paying tributes to the soldiers during his Mann ki Baat address last Sunday, Modi had said: “Those who cast an evil eye on Indian soil in Ladakh have got a befitting response. India honours the spirit of friendship… she is also capable of giving an appropriate response to any adversary, without shying away. Our brave soldiers have proven that they will not let anyone cast an evil eye on the glory and honour of Mother India.”
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was initially scheduled to visit Ladakh today along with the Army Chief, but his visit was deferred on Thursday.
Friday marks Naravane’s third visit to Ladakh since the standoff began in May. He visited the XIV Corps headquarters in Leh on his first visit, while on his second, he met the injured soldiers and visited forward areas.
Lt. General Harinder Singh, on the other hand, has met his Chinese counterpart for three high-level military discussions so far, the last being on Tuesday. The discussions have been inconclusive, suggesting that more military and diplomatic meetings will be required to end the stalemate.
Both sides had “emphasised the need for an expeditious, phased and step-wise de-escalation as a priority,” at the meeting held at Chushul, which is on the Indian side of the Chushul-Moldo Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point in eastern Ladakh. The previous two meetings, on June 6 and June 22, had been held on the Chinese territory at Moldo.
Indian and Chinese troops have been involved in a face-off at multiple locations in the region. The friction points include North bank of Pangong Tso, Hot Springs, Vohra Post and Galwan Valley.
While at Pangong Tso, China has built substantial structures till Finger 4, which is 8 km west of India’s claim of LAC at Finger 8; they have also built some structures at Patrolling Point 14 in the Galwan Valley.
China has also crossed the border at Depsang Plains, which is close to India’s strategically-important Daulat Beg Oldie post near Karakoram Pass in the north.
The other major concern has been the heavy military build-up in the depth areas by China, which has been mirrored by India by moving in additional divisions and air defence assets.