Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performed “Shastra Puja” in Tawang

Debjit Mukherjee: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday performed “Shastra Puja” in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang and celebrated Dussehra with Army soldiers in the strategically key region that is close to the frontier with China.

Singh, accompanied by Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande, also carried out a comprehensive review of India’s military preparedness along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh and lauded the troops for guarding the border with “unwavering commitment and unparalleled courage.” In an interaction with soldiers after visiting Bum-La and number of other forward posts, Singh asserted there is no option but to bolster the country’s security apparatus in view of the current global scenario.

Singh’s celebration of Dussehra with the soldiers at a military base that is not very far from the LAC comes at a time India and China have been engaged in a bitter standoff in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh for over three years.

Dussehra signifies the victory of good over evil, Singh said after performing “Shastra Puja” (worship of weapons) at a military base.

The defence minister also visited the Tawang war memorial, where he laid a wreath and offered tributes to the soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during the 1962 war with China.

Tawang is a centre for Buddhism and key region having significant strategic importance. India has been ramping up military infrastructure in the region in the last few years. Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a clash along the LAC at Yangtse in the Tawang sector on December 9 last year.

“No amount of appreciation is enough for the way you are guarding the border in difficult circumstances. I want to tell you that people of the country are proud of you,” he told the troops.

The defence minister expressed gratitude to the soldiers for their “unyielding spirit, unwavering commitment and unparalleled courage” while guarding the borders in tough conditions, and ensuring that the nation and its people are safe.

In his remarks, Singh said all efforts are being made to strengthen the nation’s military prowess through indigenous production of defence equipment.

“Earlier, we used to rely on imports to upgrade our military. But today, a number of major weapons and platforms are being manufactured within the country,” he said.

“Foreign companies are being encouraged to share their technology and produce the equipment in India with domestic industry. In 2014, the value of defence exports was about Rs 1,000 crore, but today we are exporting defence equipment worth thousands of crores,” he said.

In his address to the soldiers, the defence minister described the “righteousness and dharma” of the brave armed forces personnel as the living testament to the ethos of the festival of Vijayadashmi.

Singh has been performing “Shastra Puja” during Dussehra for the last several years, including during his tenure as the Union Home Minister in the previous NDA government.

The defence minister said the valour and commitment of the armed forces is one of the main reasons behind India’s rising stature globally and that it is now among the most powerful nations.

Singh cited India’s success in the economic sphere as one of the reasons for the country’s growing global profile. But at the same time noted that if the armed forces hadn’t guarded the country’s border effectively, then its stature would not have risen.

Citing his recent tour of Italy, the defence minister recalled his visit to Montone memorial which has been built to honour the contribution of Naik Yaswant Ghadge and other Indian soldiers who fought in the Italian campaign to liberate Montone in World War II.

He added that not just Indians, but even Italian people pay their respects at the memorial, which is proof that the bravery of Indian soldiers is recognised globally.

The defence ministry said Singh was briefed on the infrastructure development along the LAC and the deployment of cutting-edge military equipment to enhance the operational efficiency of the troops.

Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.

India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.

The Army has significantly bolstered deployment of troops and weaponry along the nearly 3,500 km-long LAC, including in the Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh sectors following the eastern Ladakh standoff.