In a veiled swipe at Pakistan, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said countries which are unable to protect their sovereignty and cannot even build roads or do trade on their own become like India’s ‘neighbours’.
Singh’s comments are seen as an indirect reference to Pakistan where China has been rapidly enhancing its influence in an increasing number of areas including trade and infrastructure development.
In an address at an online event, Singh also highlighted the effective response by India’s armed forces in dealing with various security threats including the challenge to the country’s territorial integrity or confronting cross-border terrorism.
“Countries which are not able to protect their sovereignty become like our neighbours. Those who can neither make their own ‘road’, nor walk on it, nor do trade themselves, nor stop anyone else from doing trade,” he said.
China is implementing a $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) besides developing the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea. Several major Chinese companies have been playing a major role in Pakistani economy in the last few years.
In his remarks, the defence minister also said that India’s “brave soldiers” were fearlessly engaged in protecting the country’s borders when people were largely confined to their homes in view of the rising cases of coronavirus.
Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a tense border standoff in eastern Ladakh for the last seven months. Indian troops had strongly responded to multiple attempts by the Chinese military to intimidate them. Multiple rounds of talks between the two sides have not yielded any concrete outcome to resolve the border standoff.
“When Covid-19 cases were on the rise, we sat in our homes helplessly, but our brave soldiers were fearless and bravely engaged in protecting the borders. They not only protected the border with promptness, but also made supreme sacrifice when needed,” he said.
Singh further said: “Whether it is to win in multidimensional wars to protect India’s integrity, and sovereignty, or to counter terrorist activities from across the border, our armed forces have responded to challenges with great vigour.”
The event was organised by the Kendriya Sainik Board (KSB) on the eve of the Armed Forces Flag Day. The KSB is the apex body of the government that formulates policies for rehabilitation and welfare of ex-servicemen and their dependants.
India has been observing December 7 as the Armed Forces Flag Day since 1949 to honour those soldiers who valiantly fought on the borders to safeguard the country’s honour.
The defence minister also appealed to people to make contributions towards the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund, and even referred to donations made by the citizens during the 1962 war with China.
“In the war of 1962, the people of this country had happily donated ‘hot wool to warm blood’ at the call of the nation. There was no count of money or jewellery. This is our feeling towards the nation,” he said.
He also mentioned how people of Bardhana Khurd village in Rajasthan had decided that one son from each family will be sent to the border knowing very well what could have been the result of going to the frontier.
The government had constituted the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund (AFFDF) for the welfare and rehabilitation of the ex-servicemen (ESM) community.
There are more than 32 lakh exservicemen and around 60,000 are added each year due to superannuation. “We must come forward with a ‘big’ and ‘open’ mind in fulfilling responsibility towards the security of our nation,” Singh said.