Guwahati: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh felicitated the veterans of the 1971 Indo-Pak war at a function in Guwahati, Assam on Saturday. 

Over 300 war veterans, Veer Naris and their families attended the felicitation ceremony organised by the Government of Assam to honour the valour, dedication and sacrifice of the Bravehearts 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 who was awarded a Padma Shri was among those present. Some of the veterans of the 1965 war were also in attendance. 

In his address, Rajnath Singh expressed his happiness at meeting the war heroes & Veer Naris and paid tributes to those who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of the Nation. 

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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. 

He 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. 

Singh further appealed to the citizens to safeguard the unity & 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 North-East which has ensured peace & stability on the Indo-Bangladesh border and helped the region usher into a new era of development. 

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The Raksha Mantri also stated that the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from many areas of the North-East is the result of durable peace and stability in the region. “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 & Kashmir so that AFSPA can be removed from there as well,” he added.

Singh added that “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 Raksha Mantri also 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 enhance the defence preparedness. 

Reiterating that it is the Government’s duty to ensure the well-being and satisfaction of the ex-servicemen, Singh assured the veterans of all possible support. He said, the Government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the welfare of the ex-servicemen, as every warrior of today is a respected veteran of tomorrow.

“We fulfilled the long-pending demand of One Rank One Pension as soon as we came to power. Under Digital India, many online services have been started, including Smart Canteen Card and Ex-Servicemen Identity Card. A Pension Grievance Portal is also functioning to address the issues of pensioners. Now, Havildars who retired before 2006 and got the rank of Honorary Naik Subedar are also getting the benefit of a revised pension. Orders were also given to revise the pension regulation of the three services in December 2020. We believe in taking care of our brave soldiers, not only while they are in service, but also after their retirement,” he stated, listing out the measures taken by the Government for ex-servicemen’s welfare.         

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