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Relevant for: International Relations | Topic: India - China

NEW DELHI: Ramping up New Delhi’s verbal offensive against China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday slammed Beijing saying the “era of expansionism is over"as he made it clear that India would stand its ground in the face of tensions between the two countries.

During a surprise visit to Leh, the headquarters of the Indian Army’s 14 Corps, Modi also paid tributes to the bravery of 20 Indian army personnel killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on 15 June saying India’s enemies had seen the "fire and fury" with which its armed forces responded to challenges.

Modi’s remarks came against the backdrop of signs that world opinion was further crystallizing against China. “Had a good talk with FS Shringla. Appreciated his briefing on the situation along LAC, including GOI’s policy to pursue peaceful resolution. Japan also hopes for peaceful resolution through dialogues. Japan opposes any unilateral attempts to change the status quo," Satoshi Suzuki, Japanese ambassador to India, said in a Twitter post after a conversation with foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

The comment is seen as one of the strongest after US President Donald Trump was quoted by a White House spokesperson on Thursday as saying that "China's aggressive stance along India-China border fits with a larger pattern of Chinese aggression in other parts of the world. Tensions spiked in May, between India and China, who share 3,488 kilometre long border that has not been formally demarcated since their 1962 war. India says that China has been obstructing its patrols along the border, is squatting in its territory and has raised the levels of friction by amassing thousands of troops, artillery, heavy vehicles and air support, a charge Beijing denies. Many rounds of talks at the military and diplomatic levels on de-escalation and disengagement, have not yielded any results on the ground as yet.

In New Delhi on Friday, India stepped up its diplomatic offensive against the Chinese move, with Shringla briefing the ambassadors of the US, France, Germany and Russia besides Japan.

In Leh, in his speech to the Indian Army, Air Force and the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel at Nimu, Modi said "the age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development. History knows that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back."

Though he did not mention China even once by name, the target of Modi’s remarks was clear. Given China’s move to claim territorial waters in the South China Sea and East China Sea besides engaging India in a military standoff over its moves to change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control, it was clear Modi’s message was intended for Beijing.

In his speech, Modi also said India was committed to peace and friendship but this commitment to peace should not be seen as India's weakness. “The weak can never accomplish peace, the brave do," he said. “After every attack India has made a strong comeback," Modi said. India believes in peace and friendship, he said but “We also know that the weak cannot accomplish peace, the brave do."

Praising the armed forces Modi said: "Your courage is higher than the heights where you are serving today."

Seemingly stung by Modi’s comments, Ji Rong, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi in a twitter post said “China has demarcated boundary with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation. It's groundless to view China as "expansionist", exaggerate & fabricate its disputes with neighbours."

Chinese foriegn ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian added:"India should avoid a strategic miscalculation with regard to China," during a briefing earlier in the day in Beijing.

Later in the day, Modi visited soldiers injured in the 15 June clash in hospital before concluding his visit to Leh. “You gave them (the enemy) a fitting response," he said praising their valour. On his arrival in New Delhi, Modi headed straight into a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security that was attended by the ministers of home, defence, external affairs and others.

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