“From LoC to LAC, whoever has raised eyes on the sovereignty of the country …. the armed forces and the country have responded in the same language. Respect for India’s sovereignty is supreme for us. What our brave soldiers can do for this resolution, what the country can do, the world has seen this in Ladakh,” Modi said.
The remark was seen as a reference to the Galwan Valley clashes where, according to the defence establishment, Indian jawans retaliated against PLA’s aggression by inflicting many casualties on the Chinese side.
The PM said despite recent adversities — a reference to the Covid-19 pandemic — there have been “misadventures” on the borders.
While he did not name either China or Pakistan, the PM referred to the threats of expansionism and terrorism, in that order, represented by the two hostile neighbours, saying that India’s tough stance has been appreciated. “Recently, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, 184 countries out of 192 supported India. This is a matter of great pride for every Indian. This is an example of how we have made our place in the world. And this is possible only when India itself is strong, India is powerful and safe,” he said.
The brief reference to the ongoing military stand-off in Ladakh came as discussions to disengage at friction points and de-escalate are stalemated due to China’s refusal to pull back its troops despite several rounds of talks. The two sides are now digging in and Indian forces are preparing supplies to last through the winter.
“When we embark on an extraordinary journey with an extraordinary goal, the path will also be full of challenges and these challenges too are extraordinary. Notwithstanding the recent adversities, there have been misadventures along the border which threw a challenge to the country. But whoever tried to threaten the sovereignty of our country right from the LoC to the LAC, the army of the country, our brave soldiers have given a befitting reply,” he said.
Modi said, “The whole country is full of zeal, driven by conviction and moving forward with unwavering devotion to protect India’s sovereignty. The world has seen what our brave jawans can do in Ladakh…Today, I pay obeisance to all the brave men and soldiers who sacrificed their lives”.
In the rest of his speech, Modi expounded in detail on the theme of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the context of decisions such as curbs on defence imports that are to be indigenised, national infrastructure projects, a new education policy, development of Tejas fighters, a plan to connect all villages by fibre optical networks, and reforms in taxation and the MSME sector. India can’t continue to be an exporter of raw materials and receiver of finished goods, he said.
Modi also said the beginning of the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya is a “peaceful culmination” of the age-old Ram Janambhoomi issue. “The citizens of India have shown exemplary restraint and wisdom, and acted responsibly… Peace, unity and harmony are going to be the strengths of self-reliant India.”
There was a pointed reference to the middle class as Modi reassured this vocal segment that the government has not lost sight of their needs. “Whether it is the agriculture sector, small-scale industries sector or the people in services sector, almost all these people, in a way constitute a huge middle class of India,” he said. The government is constantly working to fulfil dreams of the middle class. The middle class has the power to do miracles. So middle class families get the greatest benefits of ease of living. Cheap internet, affordable smartphones and flight tickets — all these things are going to increase the strength of the middle class,” he said. Home loan rates have become cheaper and funds have been set up to complete distressed projects, he added.