NEW DELHI • India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday issued a new warning to China over deadly border tensions, using his most important speech of the year to promise to build a stronger military.
With talks on easing a military build-up in their Himalayan border region at a stalemate, Mr Modi told an Independence Day ceremony that India's sovereignty was "supreme" and that relations with neighbours depended on security and trust.
Attendance at the Red Fort in New Delhi for the speech was cut by more than half to 4,000 people, all of whom sat 2m apart because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Modi mentioned confrontations with Pakistan and China on their disputed borders, but without naming either country.
"Anyone who has cast an eye on the country's sovereignty, the country's army has answered them in their own language," he said.
"India's integrity is supreme for us. What we can do, what our soldiers can do - everyone saw that in Ladakh," referring to a border clash with Chinese troops in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas on June 15.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. China has also acknowledged that it suffered casualties but without giving numbers.
The two sides, which also fought a border war in 1962, have blamed each other for the recent fighting, and tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese troops have since been sent to the region.
Mr Modi insisted that no land was lost in the clash, but military experts used satellite images to counter that Chinese troops occupy frontier territory which India has claimed for decades.
India has, in turn, used economic weapons against China. It has banned at least 59 apps, including the major video-sharing platform TikTok, and taken other measures to freeze Chinese firms out of contracts and block its imports.
Mr Modi said relations with neighbours are now linked to "security, progress and trust".
INTEGRITY IS SUPREME
Anyone who has cast an eye on the country's sovereignty, the country's army has answered them in their own language. India's integrity is supreme for us. What we can do, what our soldiers can do - everyone saw that in Ladakh.
INDIAN PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI, referring to the deadly border clash with Chinese troops in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas on June 15.
"A neighbour isn't just someone who shares our geography but those who share our hearts. Where the relationship is respected, it becomes warmer," he said.
Mr Modi yesterday also spoke to his Nepali counterpart K.P. Sharma Oli for the first time since a diplomatic spat over a map and a disputed area of territory erupted earlier this year.
Mr Oli called Mr Modi on the occasion of India's Independence Day and congratulated him for the country's recent election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, said India's External Affairs Ministry.
Mr Modi also said his priority was getting India out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
India is expected to pass 50,000 virus deaths in the coming days and three million infection cases within a week. It has the fastest-growing caseload in the world and is now behind only Brazil and the US in terms of total case numbers.
With the economy expected to shrink this year, Mr Modi reaffirmed an election promise to spend US$1.3 trillion (S$1.78 trillion) on 7,000 infrastructure projects "to get us out of the pandemic situation".