The Army's "charismatic performance" during the prolonged border stand-off with China has improved the morale of the country and allowed Indians to "hold their heads high", Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declared Saturday at a public event in Lucknow.
"The charismatic (karishmaayi) performance by the Army during the India-China standoff has boosted the morale of the country and also enabled the citizens to hold their heads high," Mr Singh, whose statement drew thunderous applause from the crowd, said.
Army Chief General MM Naravane, who this week warned rival nations that India's desire for peace and tranquility should not be interpreted as a sign of weakness, was also present, as was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
On Thursday Rajnath Singh reiterated India's resolve to stand firm and defend its territory. Although he did not refer to China, Mr Singh cautioned "any superpower" against challenging India.
"We don't want war and we are in favour of protecting everyone's security. But I want to say this in clear terms - that if any superpower wants to hurt our pride then our soldiers are capable of giving them a befitting reply," he said.
India and China have been locked in a stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border between the countries since May last year. Tensions peaked in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the line of duty in a clash with the Chinese at Galwan Valley.
There have been several rounds of military and diplomatic talks between the two sides to resolve the stand-off. The two countries have also moved tens of thousands of troops and weapons into the high-altitude region since March as tensions persist.
In December, both sides agreed to continue working towards complete disengagement of troops at all friction points along the LAC in eastern Ladakh at the "earliest".
Earlier this week General Naravane also said that while there had been no reduction in troops by either side, all issues would addressed on the basis of mutual and equal security.
"As far as resolution of the present situation (in eastern Ladakh) is concerned, we are hoping that based on the principle of mutual and equal security... would result in disengagement and de-escalation, disengagement from the friction areas," the General said.
On Monday an unnamed Chinese soldier held last week in Ladakh, on the Indian side of the LAC, was handed back. This is the second such case in the last few months. In October, another PLA soldier - Wang Ya Long - was caught by Indian forces in eastern Ladakh's Demchok sector.
With input from ANI, PTI