New Delhi- As the Ladakh standoff persisted, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday India’s armed forces stood up to aggression along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in eastern Ladakh and fought the Chinese PLA with “utmost bravery” and “remarkable fortitude” and forced it to go back.
“There comes a point in a nation’s history, every now and then, when it needs to stand up for itself, tell that it can fight anyone, that it’s capable to take any challenge, just to survive,” Singh said in unusually pointed remarks on the seven-month-long military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
In his address at the annual general meeting of industry body FICCI, he also said the “unprovoked aggression” on India’s Himalayan frontiers is a reminder of how the world is changing and how existing agreements are being challenged.
In this context, the defence minister said the future of the region and world is becoming uncertain going by the way power is being asserted not just in the Himalayas but across the Indo-Pacific.
Against the backdrop of the raging protests by farmers in the National Capital Region(NCR), Singh also stressed that agriculture was a “mother sector” and there was no question of taking any “retrograde steps” against it ever.
Referring to cross-border militancy he said India fought the scourge alone even when there was no one to support it, but later, the countries across the world understood that “we were right about Pakistan being the fountainhead of terrorism”.
On the prolonged border standoff with China, Singh said India’s future generations will be proud of what the armed forces have achieved this year.
“In these testing times our forces have shown exemplary courage and remarkable fortitude. They fought the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) with utmost bravery and forced them to go back. The coming generations of this nation will be proud of what our forces have managed to achieve this year.”
The defence minister said while the world was fighting the deadly coronavirus virus, India’s armed forces were valiantly defending its borders and asserted that no virus could deter from their duty.
“The unprovoked aggression on our Himalayan frontiers is a reminder of how the world is changing, how existing agreements are being challenged, how power is being asserted not just in the Himalayas but across the Indo-Pacific.
“And how uncertain the future of the region and world could be in this backdrop. As you are aware, there is a big build-up of armed forces at the LAC in Ladakh,” he said.
The defence minister also said there may be comparison between the Indian and Chinese military strength, but when it comes to soft power, India is far ahead of China.
“Whenever there is a situation at the LAC, the most obvious outcome is a comparison between India and China’s military strength. But I don’t want to dwell on that. There can be a serious debate on who owns more military might but when it comes to soft power there is no scope of ambiguity,” he added.
“India is far ahead of China when it comes to leading the world with ideas. If you look at the entire East Asia from Burma to Thailand to Indonesia and Malaysia even Japan, there is a huge Indian cultural impact on all these countries./
Singh said Buddhism had a “monumental influence” over China to an extent that before the 1949 revolution almost 80 per cent of China’s population followed Buddhism.
Elaborating on how India was a victim of cross-border militancy, he said countries across the world understood India was right about Pakistan being fountainhead of militancy.
“We have been victims of cross-border terrorism, yet have fought the scourge alone even when there was no one to support us but later, they understood we were right about Pakistan being the fountainhead of terrorism.
“And now again our brave forces are there in the forefront fighting icy winds to guard our borders and to fulfill their responsibility,” he said.
Referring to the government’s initiative to boost domestic defence production, Singh asked whether the Indian industry can also stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the armed forces to bring the right technology for them.
“Can we use our economic strength to our advantage, forge the right partnerships, bring the right technology for our armed forces? Can we be at the forefront of military production lethal or non-lethal like our soldiers on the border?” he asked.
“Today’s India is different from the 1950s or 1960s. Our businesses, people like all of you, are champions in your sectors. You have the confidence — that has come from great success in India and overseas as well as the global reach to influence decisions,” Singh said.
In May, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rolled out a number of reform measures for the defence sector including making separate budgetary outlay to procure Indian-made military hardware, increasing FDI limit from 49 per cent to 74 per cent under the automatic route and generating a year-wise negative list of weapons which will not be allowed to import.
“However victorious is the country which not only rises to the challenge but turns it into an opportunity, changes the way things are and creates a new reality of prosperity, security and peace. That’s what we need to do in the defence sector,” he told the captains of the Indian industries.
In an indirect reference to the farmers’ agitation, Singh said, “There is no question of taking retrograde steps against our agricultural sector ever. The recent reforms have been undertaken with the best interests of India’s farmers in mind.”
“We are, however, always willing to listen to our farmer brothers, allay their misgivings and provide them with assurances we can provide. Our Government is always open to discussion and dialogue.”
Singh said agriculture sector has been one area which has been able to avoid the adverse effects of the pandemic.
“Agriculture has been one sector which has been able to avoid the adverse effects of the pandemic and, in fact, come out the best. Our produce and procurement have been plentiful and our warehouses are full,” he said.
Thousands of farmers have been holding protests on the borders of Delhi demanding withdrawal of the three new farm laws.
Talking about the impact of coronavirus pandemic and strength of the country’s economy, the defence minister said India received the highest ever total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) USD 35.73 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal which is 13 per cent higher compared to the same period last fiscal.
“It is the strength of our economy only that India, in April-August 2020, received the highest ever total FDI. The total FDI inflow into India in the first five months was USD 35.73 billion, 13% higher than that in the same period last fiscal,” he said.
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