|Defence Minister Rajnath also hailed the “bravery, valour and sacrifice” of Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation during the Galwan clash. (ANI Photo)|
In an indirect message to China, Union defence minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that though India is a peace-loving country, it is capable of giving a befitting reply to aggression.
“India is a priest of world peace. We have never indulged in aggression with any country in the world, including our neighbours, but we are capable of giving a befitting reply to those who show aggression towards us,” said Singh, while inaugurating the 12 strategic roads built by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) — 10 in Arunachal Pradesh and one each in Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. The event was held in Assam’s Lakhimpur, close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh.
Singh’s statement comes in the backdrop of China continuing to hold on to positions in Hot Springs and Gogra Post on the border, a year after the Galwan Valley skirmish on June 15, 2020, that left 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops dead and created a huge trust deficit between the two sides.
China also claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet.
In the past, there have been instances of Chinese soldiers entering Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh, which shares an 1126-km border with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. There have also been reports of the construction of villages on the Chinese side close to the international boundary.
The Union minister also hailed the “bravery, valour and sacrifice” of Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation during the Galwan clash. “Last year in Galwan Valley, our soldiers displayed exemplary courage and valour in the line of duty. I salute all brave soldiers who laid down their lives fighting for the nation,” he said.
Singh further highlighted the strategic importance of the northeast region, which is surrounded by five countries, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and China. “Due to its closeness to international boundaries, the region has several challenges. Smuggling used to be a big menace earlier, especially of fake Indian currency notes (FICN). But it has come down in recent years,” he said.
About the strategic roads, Singh said they would not only give a boost in connectivity but would facilitate faster movement of troops along the international border. “The new roads will not only help the civilian population of the region in allowing easier communication and availability of goods but also help secure our international borders and aid movement of defence forces,” he said.
He said the road projects are a part of the Narendra Modi government’s Act East Policy, which aims to open up the northeast for economic, strategic and cultural relations between states of the region to countries in South East Asia.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, Union minister for sports Kiren Rijiju and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat were among those who attended the event.