Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the border between his country and China on Friday, delivering a speech thanking the country’s soldiers for defending against a Chinese attack that left nearly two dozen dead despite the absence of firearms.
Modi visited India’s Ladakh region in the Himalayas and met with veterans of the melee between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian military in the Galwan Valley, a bloody exchange in which Chinese soldiers used rocks and sticks wrapped in barbed wire to beat Indian soldiers after being confronted over their presence on the Indian side of the border, formally known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Indian media reported that “over 20” Indian soldiers died – many killed by hypothermia and falling off of steep clips in the brawl – and reported that China lost as many as 50 PLA troops. Beijing refuses to reveal the number of casualties in the incident.
In the aftermath of the incident, grassroots Indian groups have launched a “Boycott China” movement, destroying products around their homes made in China and burning Chinese dictator Xi Jinping in effigy throughout the country. New Delhi hotels announced they would not allow Chinese nationals to book rooms, making it more difficult for Chinese businessmen to invest in the country. The Indian government has moved to make that boycott a reality, banning 59 Chinese mobile phone apps and banning Chinese contractors from working on Indian highway projects.
Prior to his visit to the border on Friday, Modi had attempted to calm popular sentiment against the Chinese, issuing remarks in an interview last week stating that China had received a “befitting reply” to its invasion of India.
Modi’s speech on Friday was more forceful against China than soothing for the Indian people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes a surprise visit to Ladakh, being briefed by senior officials at a forward position in Nimu. pic.twitter.com/8I6YiG63lF
— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2020
“The era of expansionism has come to an end,” Modi declared. “This is the era of development… History has proved that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back.”
Modi dedicated much of his speech to the troops guarding the Indian border, telling them, “the entire country is proud of you.”
“Today the head of every citizen of the country bows to you in respect. From Leh to Ladakh and from Kargil to Siachen, all regions have witnessed the bravery of our soldiers,” Modi said. “Your will power is as strong and firm as the Himalayas … 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.”
“The conditions in which you all deliver your best are among the toughest in the world, and you have proven time and again that the Indian armed force is mightier and better than everyone else in the world,” Modi was quoted as saying. “What you have done here, the message you have sent, is a message that has reached the world. It has been a bold statement.”
#WATCH "From Leh, Ladakh to Siachen and Kargil…and Galwan's icy waters…every mountain, every peak is witness to the valour of Indian soldiers," PM Modi to soldiers in Ladakh pic.twitter.com/JTcHM4cSSV
— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2020
In addition to delivering remarks, Modi visited with soldiers injured in the Galwan Valley battle. and toured a military base on the border.
Interacting with our brave Jawans, who do everything to protect our nation. https://t.co/704f7Q9Fu4
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 3, 2020
PM Modi is presently at one of the forward locations in Nimu, Ladakh. He reached there early morning.He is interacting with personnel of Army, Air Force & ITBP. Located at 11,000 feet,this is among the tough terrains, surrounded by Zanskar range and on the banks of the Indus. pic.twitter.com/ZcBqOjRzcw
— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2020
The Chinese communist regime responded with irritation to Modi’s visit, not likely to be mimicked by dictator Xi Jinping, who prefers to remain behind closed doors in Beijing during national crises.
“India and China are major developing countries, the Indian side should not have miscalculations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Friday. “Neither side should make any move that may complicate the border situation.”
Zhao condemned Indian officials stating their plans to prevent Chinese companies from working on Indian road and highway projects.
“In recent days some politicians in India have kept issuing irresponsible remarks that are detrimental to China-India relations. It calls for concerted efforts on both sides to maintain China-India relations. India should work with China for the same goal and uphold the overall interests of our bilateral relations,” Zhao said. “China-India practical cooperation is mutually beneficial and win-win in nature. Artificially setting up barriers for such cooperation not only violates WTO rules, but also hurts India’s interests. China will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese businesses.”
Zhao is best known for spreading the unsubstantiated theory that the Chinese coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, escaped from a U.S. Army laboratory.
While Modi has insisted for weeks that China has ceased attempting to expand into India, reports indicate that China has flooded the mutual border with trained mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters. Satellite images published after the Galwan Valley battle appear to show Chinese assets being reconstructed on the Indian side of the border, including the expansion of helipads for military aircraft. Since the incident, China has suddenly begun to claim the Galwan Valley as its own – a territorial claim India vocally disputes, citing a lack of historical precedent.