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China-India border dispute

Modi says India will fight foreign threats in Independence Day speech that sends warning to China

PM’s remarks came as New Delhi’s dispute with Beijing over a strategically key Himalayan plateau enters its second month on Wednesday, with hundreds of soldiers reported to be facing off against each other

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 11:21pm

India can defend itself from anyone who seeks “to act against our country”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an Independence Day speech Tuesday amid a tense stand-off with Beijing over a Himalayan plateau.

“Security is our top priority,” Modi said in a speech before thousands at the landmark Red Fort in New Delhi as the country marked the 70th anniversary of the end of British colonial rule.

“Be it the sea or the borders, cyber or space - in all spheres, India is capable and we are strong enough to overcome those who try to act against our country,” the Hindu nationalist leader declared.

His remarks came as New Delhi’s dispute with Beijing over a strategically key Himalayan plateau enters its second month on Wednesday, with hundreds of soldiers reported to be facing off against each other.

The giant neighbours share a long history of mistrust and went to war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and are still embroiled in a dispute over the territory.

India is also mired in a border row with Pakistan over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir since their bitter split in 1947.

The latest border crisis between New Delhi and Beijing began in June when a Chinese construction crew was found to be trying to extend a road in the Doklam region that both China and the mountainous nation of Bhutan claim as theirs.

India, which has special ties with Bhutan, sent its troops to stop the construction, igniting anger in Beijing which said New Delhi had no business to intervene, and demanded a unilateral troop withdrawal.

Modi’s administration, though, has dug in its heels and said that the Chinese road activity in the region near the borders of India, Bhutan and China was a threat to the security of its own northeast region.

China has repeatedly warned of an escalation if India did not order its troops back. The state-controlled Global Times which has kept a barrage of hostile commentary said last week that if Modi continued the present course in the border, Beijing would have to take “counter-measures”.

Ties between the neighbours have been souring over China’s military help to India’s arch rival Pakistan and its expanding presence in smaller nations in Asian subcontinent which New Delhi long regarded as its area of influence.

China has criticised the Modi government’s public embrace of the Dalai Lama and its decision to let the Tibetan spiritual leader, whom it regards as a “dangerous separatist”, to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh which China claims as its own.

China has also frowned at India’s expanding military ties with the United States as well as Japan.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters