In first public remarks on the death of 20 Indian Army personnel in violent clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday said India wants peace but “will give a befitting reply” if provoked.
“I want to assure the nation that the sacrifice made by our soldiers will not go in vain. India’s integrity and sovereignty are supreme for us, and no one can stop us from defending it. Nobody should have any iota of doubt about this. India wants peace. But on provocation, India will give a befitting reply,” the Prime Minister said.
He has called an all-party meeting at 5 pm on June 19 to discuss the border situation. Presidents of political parties will be taking part in this virtual meeting.
Observing a two-minute silence in memory of the fallen soldiers before the start of his second meeting with Chief Ministers on the coronavirus crisis, Modi said: “Desh ko is baat ka garv hoga ki hamare sainik maarte maarte mare hain (The country will be proud of the fact that our soldiers have died fighting).”
“The brave sons of Mother India made the supreme sacrifice while protecting our motherland in the Galwan Valley. I salute them… In this difficult moment of grief, I express my condolences to the families of these martyrs. Today, the entire nation is with you. The country’s sympathies are with you.”
“This supreme sacrifice of our martyrs will not go in vain. Whatever may be the situation and circumstances, India will firmly protect every inch of the country’s land and its self-respect,” he said.
These echo similar remarks by the Prime Minister after the terror attacks in Uri (2016) and Pulwama (2019), following which Indian forces crossed the Line of Control to strike at terror launch pads in Pakistan.
While Modi did not refer to China directly in his remarks, the reference to Galwan Valley made it clear who he had in mind. He also referred to Delhi’s understanding with Beijing that differences should not become disputes.
“India is culturally a peace-loving country. Our history has been that of a peace-loving country. The ideological mantra of India has been Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. In every era, we have wished for peace and welfare of the entire world and humanity. We have always worked closely with our neighbours in a cooperative and friendly manner. We have always wished for their development and welfare.”
“Whenever there have been differences of opinion, we have always tried to ensure that those differences never turn into a dispute. We never provoke anyone, but we also do not compromise with the integrity and sovereignty of our country. Whenever it was needed, we have demonstrated our strength, proving our capabilities in protecting and defending the integrity and sovereignty of the country,” he said.
“Sacrifice and endurance are part of our national character, but at the same time bravery and valour are also equally a part of it,” he said.
His tough remarks assume significance given that top BJP leaders had so far refrained from commenting on the LAC developments.
Modi himself has invested heavily in building ties with China. From the time he came to power in 2014, he and President Xi Jinping have met at least 18 times. These include one-on-one meetings in each other’s countries and on the sidelines of multilateral summits. Modi has visited China five times as Prime Minister, the most by any Indian Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s remarks came after his meeting Tuesday night with top Cabinet colleagues — Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, all of whom are members of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The meeting was learnt to have deliberated on India’s response to the Galwan Valley incident.
Rajnath Singh too said the nation will never forget the “bravery and sacrifice” of the soldiers.
In a Twitter post, Singh said: “The loss of soldiers in Galwan is deeply disturbing and painful. Our soldiers displayed exemplary courage and valour in the line of duty and sacrificed their lives in the highest traditions of the Indian Army. The Nation will never forget their bravery and sacrifice. My heart goes out to the families of the fallen soldiers. The nation stands shoulder to shoulder with them in this difficult hour. We are proud of the bravery and courage of India’s bravehearts.”
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