Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah said on Saturday that the Indian Army is always battle-ready, days after Chinese President Xi Jinping asked his country’s troops to be prepared for war, amid border tensions between India and China, News18 reported.

In an interview, Shah said India will never cede “even an inch” of territory to China. “Every nation is always ready,” he said. “That’s the purpose of maintaining armies – to respond to any form of aggression. I am not saying this in reference to any particular comments, but India’s defence forces are always ready.”

However, he said channels of communication between the two countries are open. “I don’t find it pertinent to comment as the country’s home minister,” Shah said. “But I will repeat the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are on guard and no one can snatch even an inch of our territory from us.” India and China held their latest round of military and diplomatic talks on October 12, in an attempt to break the standoff between troops of the two countries on the border.

Asked if India should change its policy towards Taiwan and Tibet as a tit-for-tat response to Chinese aggression, Shah said he could not speak about that on this forum. “Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and foreign minister S Jaishankar have cleared India’s position on the floor of Parliament,” he said. “I think that’s enough. Talks with China are under way.”

However, he said the world knows India’s intentions are “noble and strong”, and that it has the support of most countries around the world.

India-China tensions

Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15. But these talks have failed to break the impasse.

On Wednesday, Beijing said it does not recognise Indian sovereignty over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, claiming that India had illegally occupied Ladakh. In response, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said that China has no locus standi to comment on the matter. The ministry said Ladakh as well as Arunachal Pradesh are integral parts of India and this has been conveyed to the Chinese side on many occasions.

After the sixth round of military talks on September 22, India and China had resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline amid the border standoff. Both countries also agreed to take practical measures to properly solve problems on the ground and ensure peace in the border areas.

Bihar elections

In another segment of the interview, Shah said Nitish Kumar will be the chief minister of Bihar even if the Bharatiya Janata Party wins more seats than the Janata Dal (United) in the upcoming Assembly elections. “Some commitments are made publicly and we have to honour them,” he said.

He also expressed confidence that the National Democratic Alliance would win the polls easily, with two-thirds majority.

Shah also said only Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan could answer why he was not fighting elections within the NDA fold. He said seat sharing talks with the party were unsuccessful.

“The statements made by Chirag Paswan against our alliance partner Nitish Kumar have created ripple effects in the parties,” Shah said. “It was a tough situation for us and we still did not break the alliance. It was Chirag who finally made the announcement.” He added that the people of Bihar know who is responsible for breaking the alliance. However, Shah neither committed to nor ruled out the Lok Janshakti Party rejoining the alliance after the elections.

On October 16, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi had asked people not to vote for the Lok Janshakti Party, saying there was no secret alliance between the BJP and LJP.

Asked why the BJP did not contest the Bihar elections alone, Shah said: “It is not right to fight for expansion; there is a coalition dharma which we have to follow and we have lived by it so far. We want to continue the development that has occurred under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. This is a double-engine government with PM Modi on top and Nitish at the base working towards making Bihar a developed state at an impressive pace.”

The Bihar elections will take place in three phases from October 28 to November 7, and the results will be declared on November 10. While the BJP and JD(U) plus a number of smaller parties are contesting the polls together, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress are the opposition alliance.