New Delhi: As the military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh persisted, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday India’s armed forces had stood up to the “unprovoked aggression” along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) and fought the PLA with utmost bravery and remarkable fortitude and forced them 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 doing some plain-speaking while lauding the armed forces in the backdrop of the tense border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh that erupted in early May.
In his address at the annual general meeting of industry body FICCI, he said the “unprovoked aggression” on India’s Himalayan frontiers is a reminder of how the world is changing, and cautioned that assertion of power not just in the Himalayas but across the Indo-Pacific could create uncertainty in the region and the world. He also said there is a “big build-up” of armed forces at the LAC in Ladakh.
With protests by farmers raging 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 terrorism, 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, India’s armed forces were valiantly defending its borders and asserted that no virus could deter them 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 asserted that India is far ahead of China when it comes to leading the world with ideas. He even quoted famous Chinese thinker Hu Shi, saying “he rightly said ‘India has culturally dominated and controlled China for more than 2000 years without sending a single soldier across the border'”.
He said there may be comparisons 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 terrorism, he said countries across the world understood India was right about Pakistan being fountainhead of terrorism.
“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 decision.”
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.
Singh said it is not a very comforting fact that as one of the largest armed forces of the world the country is so import-dependent in critical areas.
“While we have made some important strides in defence production, a lot more can and must be done,” he said, asking the private sector to work hard on promoting domestic defence manufacturing.
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.
On COVID-19, he said the epidemic brought with itself a “great amount of uncertainty” and India too was greatly impacted by it. “It was a serious challenge for a nation like India that was making a quick stride towards attaining its right place in the comity of nations,” he added.
Singh said the post-corona world is not going to be the same and the challenges are going to be big and grit and determination will be required to deal with it.
“We have to strike the right balance in our efforts to stimulate economic growth, prevent supply chains disruptions and create new resilient supply chains. India is working with countries such as Japan and Australia in the context of resilient supply chains,” he said.
The defence minister said India has the potential to emerge as a hub for manufacturing of healthcare products, adding labour cost arbitrage is a dream that can still be chased by global manufacturing companies in the country.
“We should catch the next wave for lowering global manufacturing costs. The Labour code Bill 2020 is also our commitment to increase ease of doing business,” he added.