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File Photo: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh  (PTI)
File Photo: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (PTI)

India will defend sovereignty in face of aggression: Rajnath amid China dispute

  • The minister’s comments come a day before senior military commanders of India and China are to meet at Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control

NEW DELHI: Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said India was committed to peace but would also defend its sovereignty in the face of aggression, in a clear reference to the tense military standoff along the India-China border in Ladakh.

Speaking at the Diamond Jubilee of the National Defence College in New Delhi, Singh said that India was committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes.

“However India is determined to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unilateralism and aggression no matter what the sacrifice," the minister said.

The minister’s comments come a day before an expected meeting of senior military commanders of India and China at Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to try and ensure an uneasy calm at the border in place since September holds. The two sides are expected to discuss disengagement and de-escalation of tensions on Friday during the eighth round of military to military talks.

In his speech, the minister said, in the past six years, the Modi government had outlined the contours of India’s approach towards national security over the next decade.

“The first is the ability to secure India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty from external threats and internal challenges, “the minister said.

The second was “the ability to create secure and stable conditions that can facilitate India’s economic growth, thereby, creating the resources for nation building and to meet individual aspirations."

The third was that “we remain steadfast in the desire to protect our interests beyond the borders in areas where our people reside and our security interests converge," he said.

“And finally, we also believe that in a globalised and interconnected world, a country’s security interests are interlinked by shared and secure commons," Singh said. And based on “these principles, we have brought about drastic changes in our security policy," the minister said. In tandem, India has “undertaken a three-pronged approach towards internal security challenges as well. This includes development of areas affected by terrorism along with the provision of justice to the aggrieved," the minister said.

“We are cognizant of the fact that India’s stability and security are closely associated with the ability to grow economically at a desirable rate," Singh said adding: “Our interests to secure trade routes, shipping lines of communication, fishing rights and communication networks also require the ability to contribute to the global effort, to maintain open and free oceans." The comment could be a reference to India joining countries like the US, Australia and Japan in a grouping loosely known as the “Quad." Last month, India greenlighted Australia’s participation in naval exercises with the US, India and Japan. Known as the Malabar series, naval exercises are currently underway in the Bay of Bengal.

Singh said that in the past six years, India had been focused on partnerships with like minded countries.

“Our strategic partnership with the US is stronger than ever before. Similarly, India’s friendship has grown tremendously with Japan over the last few years as well. The India-Australia virtual summit in June 2020 has provided a fillip to our already strong comprehensive strategic partnership. We share common concerns with Australia and shared values," Singh said.

On ties with Russia, Singh said: “Our two countries have weathered many a challenge in the past through our close understanding and appreciation of each other’s concerns and interests. We continue to build on our relationsip with Russia and especially in the military sphere."

Singh also counted France and Israel among India’s “reliable" friends saying “We value their support and will continue to build upon it in the future as well."

Prime Minister Modi has also taken a special interest in “reaching out to our partner countries in West Asia, South East and East Asia. We have enhanced the scope and quality of our relations with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman in the West and with Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea in the East," the minister said.

One of the most important elements of India’s foreign and security policy is characterised by the “Neighbourhood First" initiative, Singh said adding “With the exception of Pakistan, given its agenda of fuelling terrorism, India has improved its relations with all neighbours. We have invested heavily to help and support our friends to forge a relationship of mutual-respect and mutual-interest."

India had also achieved “substantial success" in working with “progressive and like-minded countries to not only expose Pakistan’s regressive policies but also make it increasingly difficult to continue with its previous business as usual approach," the minister said. He was referring to pressure brought on Pakistan by groups like the Paris based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that tracks sources and channels used to fund terrorist groups.

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