Sending a firm 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 a surprise visit to Ladakh in the midst of a seven-week tense border standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in a number of areas of the region.
In his address, the prime minister paid his respect to the 20 soldiers who were killed in the Galwan Valley clash with Chinese troops.
"The bravery you have shown recently has sent a message to whole world about India's strength," he said, adding, "Bharat mata's enemies have seen both your fire and fury."
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 come to an end. This is the era of development... History has proved that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back," he said.
“Those who are weak can never initiate peace, bravery is a prerequisite for peace,” PM Modi 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."
Modi was accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and Army Chief Gen MM Naravane.
PM Modi arrived in Ladakh on Friday morning to review the ground security situation amid the ongoing border standoff with China. He was accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief MM Naravane.
Modi was at one of the forward locations in Nimu where he interacted with personnel of the Army, Air Force and ITBP. The Pime Minister reached Leh around 9.30 am, news agency PTI quoted sources as saying.
During his address to the troops, the PM said, "Whether World Wars or peace, whenever the need arises, the world has seen the victory of our braves and their efforts towards peace. We have worked for the betterment of humanity."
The prime minister 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 upgrading of infrastructure have enhanced the country's defence capabilities manifold.
He also said that the government is putting adequate focus on requirement of armed forces.
He also acknowledged contributions of ITBP personnel, engineers and other frontline workers posted at the border.
Modi's visit comes just a day after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called off his own visit to Ladakh. Singh was to visit Eastern Ladakh region to interact with soldiers deployed at the hostile border on Friday.
On June 17, Modi had stated that the sacrifice made by 20 soldiers who went down fighting against the People's Liberation Army (PLA) at Galwan Valley on June 15 night "will not go in vain".
He also said that while India wants peace, it will give a "befitting reply" if provoked. "India's integrity and sovereignty is supreme for us, and no one can stop us from defending it. Nobody should have any iota of doubt about this," said Modi. "Indian troops went down fighting (maarte, maarte mare hain)," he had said.
(With agency inputs)