Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday took an indirect dig at Pakistan, saying that countries that cannot protect their sovereignty become like India’s neighbour.

“Countries which fail to protect their sovereignty become like our neighbouring country...who can’t build their roads on their own, nor walk on them, not even do trade on their own or stop someone from trading,” Singh said while addressing an Armed Forces Flag Day event. India observes December 7 as the Armed Forces Flag Day to honour soldiers.

China’s influence on Islamabad has grown considerably with Beijing indulging in the development of trade and infrastructure in Pakistan, according to the Hindustan Times. Beijing is developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as well as the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea. In addition, several Chinese companies play an important role in Pakistan’s economy.

At the virtual event, Singh praised the armed forces for their effective response in dealing with various security threats to the country, including maintaining India’s territorial integrity and fighting cross-border terrorism.

He said that people should come out in support of the armed forces as well as the families of those killed when on duty. The defence minister also said that the “brave soldiers” were protecting the borders at the time of the coronavirus pandemic when everyone else was indoors. “During the Covid-19 period, the problems of ex-servicemen increased in many ways,” he said about the personnel who have retired. “Despite this, you will be surprised and happy to know that even in this epidemic our ex-servicemen are not behind.”

The defence minister appealed to people to contribute to the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund. “In the war of 1962, the people of this country had happily donated ‘hot wool to warm blood’ at the call of the country,” he said. “There was no count of money or jewellery. This is our feeling towards the country.”

Singh also recalled the Galwan border tension with China and said that there is no doubt that the armed forces are the ones who protect the country and its interests.

China and India have been engaged in a border standoff in the eastern Ladakh region since May. The tensions along the Line of Actual Control started with initial scuffles that led to a pitched battle – without firearms – in June that saw 20 Indian soldiers killed. Beijing, however, refused to release casualty numbers on its side. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.

Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last few months but they have failed to break the impasse.