India wants peace along its border with China, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said today after he performed "Shastra Puja" - the customary worship of weapons - in Sikkim near the China border on the occasion of Dussehra.
The Defence Minster was accompanied by army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane, besides other officers and jawans, for the puja at the Sukna War Memorial in Darjeeling.
"India's brave soldiers have sacrificed their lives (for India's safety). We want that the Indo-China border tension should end and peace should be preserved. But unpleasant incidents keep happening. However, I am confident that our soldiers will not let anyone take even an inch of our land," Rajnath Singh said after the ceremony in which he worshiped weapons, equipment and armoured vehicles as a priest chanted prayers in Sanskrit.
Mr Singh was scheduled to perform the puja at Sherathang, a high-altitude border barely 2 km away from the Line of Actual Control, or the LAC, with China in Sikkim, but could not go there due to inclement weather, officials said.
"Shastra Puja" near the LAC comes amid the standoff with China in eastern Ladakh. A tense confrontation between Indian and Chinese soldiers also took place in north Sikkim in early May.
MrSingh also inaugurated a new road in Sikkim -Alternate Alignment Gangtok-Nathula Road - via video conferencing from the Sukna-based headquarters of 33 Corps, which guards the de-facto border with China in the Sikkim sector.
"I am happy to dedicate the partial alternate route of National Highway-310 (connecting Gangtok to Nathu La) to the people of Sikkim... Most of the border roads in Sikkim are being upgraded by the Border Road Organisation to double lane... These works are planned in 9 packages with an estimated cost of Rs 5,710 crores," said the minister who is on a two-day visit to West Bengal and Sikkim to review the preparedness of the armed forces.
On Saturday, Mr Singh reviewed the combat preparedness of the Indian Army at Sukna, officials said. He and the army chief were also briefed about the situation along the border in Sikkim.
The army has significantly strengthened its troops and weaponry along the nearly 3,500 km-long border with China, including Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh sectors, given that tension in Ladakh has shown no sign of easing.
As Indo-China ties hit a new low, India has been boosting its road infrastructure along borders with China and Pakistan to ease the movement of the armed forces in strategically important areas.
It had also bought high altitude warfare kits from the US on an urgent basis - a sign that the country is preparing for an extended winter deployment.
(With inputs from Agencies)