In a clear message to China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the era of expansionism is over and that India's enemies have seen the "fire and fury" of its armed forces as he made an announced visit to Ladakh, signalling India's firmness in dealing with the border row with the neighbouring country.
In an address to troops, Modi paid glowing tributes to the 20 Indian soldiers killed in the Galwan Valley clashes, and said tales of the bravery and valour of the armed forces are echoing in every part of the country.
"Bharat Mata's enemies have seen your fire and fury," Modi said in an apparent reference to the military clashes between the Indian and Chinese troops, and asserted that bravery is a prerequisite for peace and that the weak can never accomplish it.
Modi's visit to Ladakh is seen as a strong message against China's aggressive posturing along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the region.
"We are the same people who pray to the flute-playing Lord Krishna, but we are also those who idolise and pray to the same Lord Krishna who carries the Sudarshana Chakra', he said amid chants of 'Vande Mataram'.
The prime minister said the world has taken note of India's strength due to the "exemplary bravery" of the armed forces in the recent weeks, adding history is proof that "expansionists" have either lost or perished.
"The era of expansionism has ended. This is the age of development. If someone becomes stubborn for expansionism, then it creates danger for world peace. History is witness that such forces have either been eliminated or forced to turn back.The entire world has made up its mind against expansionism," he said.
He further said:"Your courage is higher than the heights where you are serving 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. We all are proud of you."
The prime minister, accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and Army Chief Gen MM Naravane in the morning. Later, he interacted with personnel from the Army, Indian Air Force and the ITBP in Nimu. Located at 11,000 feet, Nimu is among the toughest terrains, on the banks of river Indus and surrounded by the Zanskar range.
In the afternoon, Modi visited a military hospital in Leh where he interacted with soldiers, who were injured in the Galwan Valley clashes and are undergoing treatment.
"Whether during the world wars or peace, the world has seen the victory of our brave soldiers and their efforts towards peace," Modi said in his address.
During his visit, the prime minister also said that in the last few years, several steps have been taken for the wellbeing of India's armed forces and to further strengthen India's security preparedness.
This includes ensuring availability of modern weaponry, increased border infrastructure, border area development and expanding the roads network, he said,and added that expenditure on border infrastructure has been enhanced three times.
The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last seven weeks. The tension escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on June 15. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.
The prime minister also spoke at length about how the virtues of peace, friendship and courage have been a part of India's culture since time immemorial. He recalled that India has always given a befitting reply to anyone who has tried to disturb the prevailing atmosphere of peace and progress.
He affirmed that India is committed to peace and friendship but this commitment to peace should not be seen as India's weakness.
Today India is becoming stronger, be it in naval might, air power, space power and the strength of our army, he said, adding modernisation of weapons and upgradation of infrastructure has enhanced the country's defence capabilities multifold.
He also said that the government is putting adequate focus on the requirements of armed forces.
In his address, Modi remembered all the "proud sons of Mother India" who made the supreme sacrifice at the Galwan Valley, adding those who were martyred belong to all parts of the country and "epitomised our land's ethos of bravery".
He affirmed that be it Leh-Ladakh, Kargil or the Siachen Glacier, be it the high mountains or the icy cold water that flows in the rivers, these are testimony to the gallantry of India's Armed Forces.
Recalling the greatness of Ladakh's culture as well as the noble teachings of Kushok Bakula Rimpoche, the prime minister described Ladakh as a land of sacrifice and a land that has given several patriots.
Modi affirmed that the people of India are inspired by the teachings of Gautama Buddha, for whom courage was linked to conviction and compassion.
While Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Modi's visit to Ladakh and his interaction with the Army personnel have served as morale booster for them, BJP president J P Nadda tweeted "Veer bhogya vasundhara. PM Narendra Modi's words give words to the emotion of 130 crore Indians and act as a great morale booster for our armed forces! True leadership in action!".
"The borders of the country have always been secure under the Indian Army," the defence minister said, and thanked Modi for the visit.
The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.