Delivering an unambiguous message to India's enemies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asserted that it will give a "prachand jawab" (fierce reply) if provoked, as he flew to Longewala Post to celebrate Diwali with soldiers, a tradition he has been following since assuming office in 2014.
Addressing soldiers at the forward post, which has become a part of military legend after troops here successfully thwarted numerically higher Pakistani forces in the 1971 war, Modi took a swipe at China without naming it, saying the world is troubled by "expansionist forces" and expansionism shows a "distorted mindset" that belongs to the 18th century.
India has become a forceful voice against forces of expansionism, he said and also took aim at Pakistan, adding that Indian soldiers have hit "sponsors of terrorism" in their home, a reference to air and surgical strikes against terror camps in the neighbouring country.
"No force in the world can prevent our brave soldiers from defending our borders. The world today knows that we will not compromise with our interests even one bit at any cost," he said amid a standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
He said India today believes in the policy of understanding others and making them understand but if it is tested, then it will give a fierce reply.
The country has the capability and political will to give a befitting response to those who challenge it, Modi added.
He also underlined the importance of having strong capability, saying despite advanced international cooperation and equations, vigilance is the path to security, alertness leads to happiness and peace is the prize of having strength.
"History of the world tells us that only those nations have remained safe and advanced who had the ability to take on invaders," he said, adding that 130 crore Indians stand with the country's soldiers and bow to their bravery.
"They are proud of your valour," he told the soldiers, saying their bravery has got the better of all adversities, be it in deserts, forests or deep oceans.
Later, in his address to Air Force personnel in Jaisalmer, Modi said the strength of India's forces is such that whenever "someone casts an evil on us", our soldiers have the courage to give them a reply in the same language.
"These are the things that make India's forces more credible in the eyes of the world. Today, Indian forces are conducting military exercises with big countries of the world. We are having strategic partnerships against terror. India's forces have shown that they can strike anytime, anywhere on terror havens," he said.
Indian military also leads peacekeeping missions in every corner of the world, he said.
While the Indian forces are capable of making the enemies tremble, they are also at the forefront to help people in times of disasters, he said.
Modi lauded the role played by Air Force and Navy in rescuing people who were stranded in other countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian Armed Forces worked on a war footing during the pandemic and contributed at every level ensuring the availability of masks, sanitizers, PPE kits, medical equipment, and hospitals in the country, he said.
"Our Air Force was at the forefront in rescuing people from Wuhan (China). There were some countries that left their people stranded in Wuhan, but we not only rescued our people but air force personnel also helped citizens of other countries," he said.
The greatest impediment in the modernisation of the army and in achieving self-sufficiency in military equipment have been age-old processes, Modi said, adding that continuous work is being done for simplification of these processes and recently some major improvements have been made.
In his address at Longewala, Modi said his Diwali is complete only after he comes among soldiers, adding he cannot stay away from his own on this festival. He said the more time he spends with the soldiers, the stronger his resolve to serve and protect the country gets.
"Your sacrifices teach the country discipline and sense of service," the prime minister told soldiers, referring to his government's efforts to combat the coronavirus and also to restart the economic activity fully.
Urging soldiers to make innovation and yoga a part of their daily lives, he also asked them to learn one language other than Hindi, English and their mother tongue, saying it will enrich their lives.
The prime minister referred to his government's stress on self-reliance and 'vocal for local' campaign and complimented the armed forces for the decision to bar import over 100 weapons and defence equipment.
Recalling the glorious battle of Longewala, Modi said it will always be remembered in the annals of strategic planning and military valour.
He said this was the time when the ugly face of Pakistan was exposed as its army was terrorising innocent citizens of Bangladesh and committing atrocities against women.
"Pakistan opened the front on the western border to divert the global attention but our forces gave them a befitting reply," he said at the Longewala post.
On the occasion, he recalled the fierce fight the post had witnessed in the 1971 war against Pakistan and paid tributes to Brig Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri, a hero of the battle who was then a Major, saying he became "rashtra deep" with his feat of bravery.
Modi noted that the battle will mark 50 years in 2021.
It was also an example of exemplary coordination among the Army, Navy and Air Force, he said.
India had defeated Pakistan in the 1971 war, leading to the independence of Bangladesh.
"Every year, I cherish spending Diwali with our security forces. It is a way of reaffirming our solidarity with them, as they bravely protect the nation and ensure our country can scale new heights of progress," Modi tweeted later.
He posted several pictures of his visit to Longewala on his Twitter account, including one in which he could be seen riding a tank.
Modi also interacted with air warriors, soldiers and security personnel at Jaisalmer.
"It is important that the coming generations know about the bravery with which our soldiers and security forces ensured that India is safe from the evil designs of those who eyed our territory," Modi tweeted along with pictures of him looking at war memorabilia.
He also laid a wreath at the war memorial at Longewala.
Modi has been visiting forward posts every Diwali since his government came to power in 2014.
He was in Rajouri last year, in Uttarakhand in 2018 and in Gurez in 2017.