Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks on as he speaks to the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the monsoon session in New Delhi, India, September 14, 2020. REUTERS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday expressed confidence that Parliament will send out a unanimous and strong message that the country is unitedly standing behind its brave soldiers guarding India’s borders, asserting that doing so is the legislature’s “crucial responsibility”.

Parliament met for the first time in six months on Monday, as novel coronavirus cases across the country rose by more than 90,000 in the space of a day and the total number of infections neared 5 million.

Members, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wore masks and sat in seats enclosed by glass partitions designed to prevent the spread of the virus.

In his remarks to media before the commencement of Parliament’s monsoon session, Modi noted, in an apparent reference to the ongoing border row with China in Ladakh, that brave Indian soldiers are defending the borders with great courage and high spirits in difficult hilly terrains with snowfall expected in some time.

Referring to the issue, he said, “This Parliament, particularly in this session, has one more crucial responsibility… Just like the faith with which they (soldiers) are standing, determined to protect the motherland, Parliament and all its members too will send out a message in a unanimous voice, spirit and resolve that the country stands in support of them.”

“The entire Parliament stands with the brave soldiers of the country with one voice. I believe that Parliament and all its will give out a very strong message,” he added.

Modi’s call for lawmakers to send out a united message over the issue came amid expectations that Parliament may debate the tense border situation, with some opposition leaders, especially from the Congress, sharply criticising the government’s handling of the row with China.

Noting that Parliament is expected to take up many important discussions and decide on key issues, the prime minister hoped that MPs will do “value addition” to debates.

“It is our experience that the more deep and diverse debate happens in Parliament, the more benefits it brings to the subject of discussion and the country,” he added.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread across the country, the prime minister observed that the session is taking place under special circumstances and asserted that MPs have chosen the path of duty.

“There is a corona pandemic on one hand while our obligation towards fulfilling our duties on the other; and all the MPs have chosen the path of duty. I congratulate and thank all the MPs for this initiative,” he said.

He referred to the host of changes, including staggered timings of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and the decision to run them on weekends too, brought to the running of this session due to the COVID-19 crisis, and said MPs have welcomed them.

He expressed hope that a vaccine becomes available soon, and people are helped out of this global crisis.

“There can be no laxity when there is no medicine. We hope that a vaccine is available soon, whichever part of the world it comes from,” Modi said/