NEW DELHI, Oct 20 (IANS): Paying homage to Indian soldiers who fought the war with China 50 years ago, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Saturday said India has modernised its military infrastructure and stressed that its armed forces were capable of protecting the country against any such threat in future.
For the first time since the 1962 war, the Indian defence establishment officially honored the martyrs and all those who participated in the war against China in which India lost a large portion of its territory.
Antony, along with his deputy, Minister of State for Defence M. M. Pallam Raju, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh and the three services chiefs, paid homage to the 1962 war heroes and laid wreaths at Amar Jawan Jyoti - "the flame of the immortal soldier".
"I would like to assure the nation that India of today is not the India of 1962. Over the years, successive governments, learning lessons from the past, strengthened our capabilities and modernised our armed forces," Antony replied, when asked whether India was capable of tackling any threat from China in future.
"We are confident armed forces will be able to protect the border in the event of any threat," he said, on the sidelines of the event to remember and honour soldiers who valiantly tried to fight off Chinese aggression.
"We will vigorously continue to strengthen our capabilities," he stressed.
"Nothing changed. This is the 50th year and we thought this is the time the whole nation must pay homage to the officers and jawans who lost their lives to protect our border," Antony replied, when asked why the government decided to honour the soldiers and martyrs of the 1962 war 50 years later.
Antony stressed that the "major lesson" India has learnt from the 1962 war was that the country needed to strengthen its armed forces to protect the borders.
"That we are doing and now we are in a position to involve armed forces, intelligence agencies and all those involved in the protection of national security that process is much more strong," he said.
Alluding to the decades-long boundary dispute, Antony stressed that India was holding a dialogue with China to find a solution and has established a mechanism to "immediately settle" any tensions on the border.
Special representatives of India and China have held 15 rounds of talks to resolve the boundary dispute, but have not made much headway.
When asked about the government's decision on the Henderson Brookes report on the 1962 war, he said: "Let me take a decision."
The defence minister added that all issues relating to setting up of the national war memorial at India Gate have been resolved and it was in the final stages of being cleared by the government.