Defence minister Rajnath Singh felicitated the veterans of the 1971 Indo-Pak war at a function in Guwahati on April 23. Over 300 war veterans, their wives and families attended the felicitation ceremony organised by the Assam government to honour the valour, dedication and sacrifice of the brave hearts who fought the enemy and ensured victory in the 1971 war.
Lt Col Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahir (Retd), a Bangladeshi veteran of the 1971 war was awarded a Padma Shri on the occasion. Some of the veterans of the 1965 war were also in attendance.
Rajnath Singh expressed his happiness at meeting the war heroes and paid tributes to those who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of the nation. He described the veterans as important assets of the nation who are an inspiration to every Indian.
“An in-service soldier is India’s strength and a veteran is an everlasting inspiration to stand by that strength,” he said.
Appreciating the Assam government for felicitating the veterans, the defence minister stated that the event reflected a sense of respect not only for the armed forces but also for the country’s democratic values. He paid homage to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, General Jagjit Singh Arora, Lt Gen JFR Jacob, Major General Sujan Singh Uban and Air Chief Marshal IH Latif for leading India to a historic triumph in the 1971 war.
“Our forces in the 1971 war comprised soldiers from every religion. But that did not win us the war. It was the strong thread of Indianness that held our soldiers together which ensured our victory,” he said.
Rajnath Singh appealed to the citizens to safeguard the unity and integrity of the country with the same nationalism and patriotism with which the soldiers protect the borders.
The 1971 war provided India with a strategic advantage, Rajnath Singh added, saying that there has never been any tension on the Indo-Bangladesh border as seen on the western front because Bangladesh has always been India’s friendly country. He credited the coordination between the central and state governments of the Northeast which has ensured peace and stability on the Indo-Bangladesh border and helped the region usher into a new era of development.
The defence minister also stated that the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from many areas of the Northeast is the result of durable peace and stability in the region.
Felicitated the 1971 war veterans at a function in Guwahati, Assam. An in-service soldier is India’s strength and a veteran is an ever-lasting inspiration to stand by that strength. I salute the courage and valour of the 1971 war veterans. https://t.co/PPeRVI5vos pic.twitter.com/yDVyFwE6cg
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) April 23, 2022
“Some people believe that the Indian army does not want AFSPA to be removed. I want to say from this forum that the army has a minimal role in internal security. The army wants that the situation becomes completely normal in Jammu and Kashmir so that AFSPA can be removed from there as well,” he added.
Rajnath Singh voiced the government’s unwavering commitment to strengthening the country’s security apparatus to deal with internal and external threats, adding: “We have taken a firm stand to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and have protected our citizens from the menace. We have shown that, if needed, we will eliminate terrorism emanating from across the border.”
He assured the nation that the government does not and will not hesitate to take bold decisions to protect the unity and integrity of the country.
The defence minister lauded the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for strengthening the infrastructure in border areas, saying that all efforts are being made to bolster the far-flung areas from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh. He shed light on some of the BRO projects including the Atal Tunnel and the under-construction Sela Tunnel which, he said, will provide all-weather connectivity to the far-flung areas and enhances the defence preparedness.
On the occasion, Rajnath Singh also released a book ‘The Bravehearts of 1971’. Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi and chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma were among those present during the felicitation ceremony.