India will not hesitate to cross border if terrorists target country from outside: Def min

GUWAHATI, 23 Apr: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday asserted that India would not hesitate to act against terrorists who target the country from across the border.

Speaking at a programme where Assam-based veterans of the 1971 India-Pakistan war were felicitated, Singh said that the government is working to wipe out terrorism from the country.

“India has been successful in giving out the message that terrorism will be strongly dealt with. We will not hesitate to cross borders if the country is targeted from outside,” he said.

┬áPraising the valour displayed by Indian soldiers in the recent standoffs with China, he said, “I am of the firm belief that no power in the world can do anything to bow down the head of Bharat Mata’ (Mother India).”

Taking a dig at a section of opposition leaders who had questioned the army’s role in the matter, Singh said such criticism demoralise soldiers and hurt the sentiments of people.

“I am regularly in contact with chiefs of our armed forces. I told them what I had to and they did what they had to. They have kept Bharat Mata’s head held high,” he added.

Singh also said that the eastern boundary of the country is currently experiencing more peace and stability compared to the western frontier, with Bangladesh being a friendly neighbour.

“The tension that India experiences on western frontier does not exist along eastern boundary as Bangladesh is a friendly country,” he noted.

“The problem of infiltration has almost ended. There is peace and stability at the border (in the eastern frontier) now,” the minister said.

The defence minister praised the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for its efforts in building strong boundary infrastructure, needed for defence preparedness.

“We have stronger border infrastructure now, but more has to be done and we are working on it,” he stated.

On the recent withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA from different parts of the Northeast, the defence minister stated that the government did so whenever the situation in a place improved.

He said, “When I was the union home minister, AFSPA was lifted from Arunachal Pradesh (most parts) and Meghalaya. Now under Amit Shah, it has been withdrawn from 23 districts of Assam and areas under 15 police stations each in Manipur and Nagaland.

“Durable peace and stability has ensured that AFSPA gets withdrawn from the Northeast and the role of chief ministers in the region has also been commendable, with Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma taking the leading,” he noted.

Maintaining that there is a “public misconception” that the army always wants the AFSPA to remain in force, Singh contended that the army’s job is not to look after internal security but to guard the borders.

On the continued imposition of the AFSPA in Jammu & Kashmir, the minister said, “The situation is responsible for it, not the army.”

Lauding the role of the serving soldiers and veterans in protecting the country, the defence minister said, “The soldiers are our strength and the veterans and veer naris (widows of martyrs) our inspiration.

“Even when a soldier retires and becomes a veteran, the warrior inside him lives on, and it can be seen in his ‘tevar’ (attitude), body language,” he added.

He also called on the general people to ensure that brotherhood is maintained within the country while the soldiers keep peace on the borders.

“We don’t notice religion when a person dons the uniform and becomes a soldier for the country.

“People of different religions had worked together in the 1971 war this social harmony of Assam, India should not be broken,” he said, felicitating war widows, families of martyrs, prisoners of war and former personnel who had suffered injuries in the 1971 battle.

He also inaugurated an exhibition by the Directorate of Sainik Welfare, showcasing the valour and supreme sacrifice of the armed forces in the liberation war.

Later, in a tweet, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that nine war widows were honoured with Rs 10 lakhs each, eight personnel who had suffered injuries with Rs 5 lakhs each, and two ex-prisoners of war with Rs 2.5 lakhs each.

An amount of Rs 2 lakhs each was also given to 86 other veterans of the liberation war, he added. (PTI)