Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, speaking at a FICCI event, also said India is far ahead of China when it comes to soft power

New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Monday red-flagged what he termed China’s “unprovoked aggression and projection of power” in Ladakh and the Indo-Pacific, saying the future of the region can end up being uncertain as a result of it.

“The unprovoked aggression on our Himalayan frontiers is a reminder of how the world is changing, how existing agreements are being challenged, how power is being asserted not just in the Himalayas but across the Indo-Pacific…and how uncertain the future of the region and world could be in this backdrop,” the defence minister said.

Underlining that there is a huge build-up of forces by India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, Singh said Indian forces have shown exemplary courage and remarkable fortitude in these testing times.

Speaking at the annual convention meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Singh said Indian forces fought China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “with utmost bravery and forced them to go back”.

“The coming generations of this nation will be proud of what our forces have managed to achieve this year,” he said, without mentioning the violent 15 June clash between the two forces in the Galwan Valley.

While 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the incident, Beijing has remained silent on the casualties on its side.

Following the clash, which saw Indian forces burning down a Chinese tent set up at a Y-junction in the Galwan Valley and the destruction of an observation point at Patrol Point 14, the Chinese have withdrawn their soldiers from Indian territory in this area though the faceoff continues in other parts of the LAC.

‘India Far Ahead of China On Soft Power’

Singh further said whenever there is a situation at the LAC, the most obvious outcome is a comparison between Indian and Chinese military strength. He, however, underlined that he did not want to dwell on it.

“There can be a serious debate on who owns more military might but when it comes to soft power there is no scope of ambiguity,” the defence minister said. “India is far ahead of China when it comes to leading the world with ideas.”

“If you look at the entire East Asia from Burma to Thailand to Indonesia and Malaysia, even Japan, there is a huge Indian cultural impact on all these countries,” he added. “Buddhism had a monumental influence over China to an extent that before the 1949 revolution, almost 80 per cent of China’s population followed Buddhism.”

Singh quoted Chinese scholar Hu Shih as having said “India has culturally dominated and controlled China for more than 2000 years without sending a single soldier across the border”. The defence minister said the statement underlines the fact that India as a civilizational state has been inspiring and influencing the world through its culture and soft power for centuries.

‘Will Industry Stand Shoulder To Shoulder With Armed Forces?’

Addressing the industry, the defence minister said India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism but has fought the scourge alone.

“Later they (the world) understood we were right about Pakistan being the fountainhead of terrorism,” he added. “And now again our brave forces are there at the forefront fighting icy winds to guard our borders and to fulfil their responsibility.”

The defence minister then urged the industry to aid the armed forces. “The question is can our industry also stand shoulder to shoulder with our forces? Can we use our economic strength to our advantage, forge the right partnerships, bring the right technology for our armed forces?” Singh asked. “Can we be at the forefront of military production — lethal or non-lethal — like our soldiers at the border?”

Singh said it wasn’t a very comforting fact that as one of the largest armed forces of the world, India is so import-dependent in critical military areas.

While India has made some important strides in defence production, a lot more can and must be done, he said.

‘Country Needs To Stand Up For Itself’

Listing the initiatives taken by the government in the defence sector, Singh said there comes a point in a nation’s history, every now and then, when it needs to stand up for itself, show that it can fight anyone and that it’s capable of taking on any challenge.

“However, victorious is the country that not only rises to the challenge but turns it into an opportunity, changes the way things are and creates a new reality of prosperity, security and peace,” he said. “That’s what we need to do in the defence sector. And that also is the essence of Atmanirbhar Bharat. In other words, ek Atmanirbhar Bharat se hi hai surakshit aur samrath Bharat.”

Singh underlined that the defence sector has huge implications for India’s endeavours to promote research and development, innovation and its efforts to secure a place in global supply chains.

“Of particular relevance is the fact that whatever we achieve together in the defence sector has enormous spin-off benefits for the economy in general,” he said.