The age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development : Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to a forward post in Ladakh this morning and interacted with troops days after the June 15 border clash with China in which 20 soldiers were killed in the line of duty. "The age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development. History knows that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back," he said, addressing soldiers during the visit that served as a morale booster for the forces and a powerful message to China, which has shown unrelenting aggression at the border with incursions seen in satellite images. "The weak can never accomplish peace, the brave do," he asserted.
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PM Modi sat in a camouflage tent as he spoke to hundreds of soldiers seated at a distance from each other. Later, he delivered an address against the backdrop of the Zanskar mountains.
According to the Prime Minister's office, he was at a forward location in Nimu, at a height of 11,000 feet. He reached there early in the morning by chopper from Leh, along with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief MM Naravane.
"Interacting with our brave armed forces personnel at Nimu," the PM posted, sharing a photo on his Instagram account. The PM picked a place where a large number of soldiers could assemble safely, said officials.
Personnel of the Army, Air Force and ITBP were present for the interaction. PM Modi also visited a hospital where several soldiers wounded in the clash are recovering.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was to travel to Leh yesterday but his trip was cancelled. "The PM going to Ladakh, meeting with soldiers and encouraging them has definitely strengthened their morale," Mr Singh posted on Twitter.
A rattled China reacted to the visit. "India and China are in communication and negotiations on lowering the temperatures through military and diplomatic channels. No party should engage in any action that may escalate the situation at this point," Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, was quoted by news agency ANI as saying.
After weeks of simmering tension at the Line of Actual Control or the de-facto border with China, 20 soldiers including a Colonel were killed in action in the June 15 brawl with Chinese troops at the Galwan river valley. Army sources say the Chinese suffered 45 casualties.
India gave a fitting response to China on Ladakh, PM Modi had said last week in his monthly radio address - Mann ki Baat. "Those who cast an evil eye on Indian territory in Ladakh have been given a befitting response. If India knows how to maintain friendship, it can also confront someone and give an adequate response. Our brave soldiers made it clear that they will not allow anyone to taint the honour of Mother India," PM Modi said on Sunday.
The Prime Minister's visit is also seen to deliver a strong message to the opposition Congress and other critics that have been targeting the government on its handling of the China crisis.
In almost daily tweets, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been demanding answers from the PM on Chinese incursions at the LAC.