Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to troops during his visit to Nimu in the territory of Ladakh. Photo: AFP / Indian Press Information Bureau

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at Chinese expansionism in a thinly veiled attack as he addressed troops Friday on a surprise visit to besieged Ladakh.

He said expansionism had in the past destroyed humanity, offering instead a future based on development.

China denied it was expansionist in a Twitter posting which came as it emerged that Beijing was angry that its ally Russia had just signed a $2.4 billion jets and jet upgrades deal with India.

Modi’s visit to Ladakh was his first after Chinese troops encroached on Indian territory about two months ago, killing 20 soldiers.

“The era of expansionism is over,” he said.

“The current era is of development. In fast-changing times, only development is relevant and will be the basis of the future.

“Expansion threatens world peace. History has witnessed such forces getting obliterated or being forced to retreat.”

While Modi didn’t name China in his 26-minute speech, analysts interpreted his comments as a reference to China’s expansionary moves across Asia, in the South China Sea, and its issues with Vietnam and the Philippines.

“Enemies of the motherland have seen your fire and fury,” Modi told the troops.

“Ladakh is India’s forehead and represents India’s honor and respect. From Ladakh to Kargil and Siachen, every mountain, rock and pebble knows of your courage and valor.”

It was also a reminder that India had repulsed an attack and brief occupation by Pakistan of the higher mountains near Kargil in western Ladakh in 1999. India had similarly evicted Pakistan from Siachen glacier in the early 1980s.

After the initial border skirmishes with People’s Liberation Army forces in May and June, India initiated talks to de-escalate tension and get the Chinese forces to pull back. So far, peace has been maintained while Indian forces remain alert.

In a message to the international community, Modi said India stood for peace and development, and its soldiers had always worked and died for humanity.

This was probably a reference to India’s role in United Nations peacekeeping forces across the world.

Modi said peace and friendship are critical but the weak can’t enforce peace,

In its Twitter post, Chinese embassy spokesman Ji Rong said, “China has demarcated boundaries with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation.

“It’s groundless to view China as ‘expansionist’, exaggerate and fabricate its disputes with neighbors.”

Anger among some Chinese erupted on Thursday when local media revealed the Russian jets deal.

According to reports in India, the defence minister bought 33 fighter jets – 21 MiG-29s and 12 Su-30 MKIs, plus an upgrade for a further 59 jets – for close to $2.4 billion.

A week after the Ladakh clash, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Moscow to attend the 75th Victory Day Parade in Red Square, marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Singh stayed on to buy more military hardware from Russia. India is on an arms buying spree and Russia is the main provider, although western countries are also supplying some weapons to Delhi.