On September 1, 2014, during his first bilateral visit to Japan as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi while addressing a luncheon attended by Japanese and Indian industrialists, had said: “Today, we see all around what happened in the 18th century there is expansionism
visible… some country is encroached upon, one enters the seas somewhere, territory of another country is captured, we are witnessing such tendencies. This expansionism cannot be beneficial for mankind in the 21st century… development is essential and I believe
that in the 21st century, if Asia is to lead the world, India and Japan should together raise the prestige of the path of development.
This theme, of expansionism versus development, was once again his key theme during his address in Leh on Friday. If in Ladakh he said that the era of expansionism is over and development is the engine of the future, in Tokyo, he had foreshadowed this.
These words were evidently too close to the bone in Beijing and days later, came the standoff in Chumar and later Doklam. The standoff, sources said, was resolved only after Modi raised the issue with Xi.
But now with the death of 20 soldiers, the current face-off is more intense and fractious than earlier incidents and signs of a resolution still not visible. So the fact that Modi landed in Ladakh, unannounced, is, in itself, a message. Coming even as diplomatic and
military talks are on, the PM’s move sought to underline to Beijing the seriousness of his message from India.
Not once did Modi name China but twice he referred to the sacrifice of Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley – Beijing has staked claimed to all of it. By framing the threat of its expansionism as an antiquated last-century idea that threatened peace, by invoking World Wars and peace missions, he not only reinforced his Tokyo message to Beijing
but this time to global powers, too.
The Prime Minister’s Friday’s speech also sought to clear the confusion created by his remarks at the all-party meeting. His cryptic remark had raised many questions. “Neither has anyone entered our boundary there, nor is anyone there, and nor have our posts been
captured by someone. Our 20 soldiers have been martyred in Ladakh, but before dying they taught a lesson to those who dared to cast an eye on our motherland,” he had said.
The death of the soldiers cast a shadow on a significant section of Modi’s Leh speech as he focused on the nation’s gratitude to them. His reference to Galwan, Rezang La and Kargil linked the current standoff to earlier ones to underline that it was the sacrifice of soldiers and their being a “shield” that had secured and protected the nation.