Jammu, July 24: In a strong reiteration of Indian Parliament’s resolution, the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday stated that Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) “was, is and will continue to be an integral part of India.”
He also averred that the Article 370 was an “artificial legal barrier” between India and the people of J&K despite it being an integral part of India. “Thus its (Article 370’s) abrogation by our party after coming to power brought new hopes to aspirations of people of J&K, particularly the youth,” he said.
Rajnath was addressing the gathering after felicitating around 2000 families of martyrs belonging to J&K in a function organised to commemorate “Kargil Vijay Diwas” and “75 years of Independence”
by Jammu Kashmir People’s Forum – an organisation affiliated to RSS at Gulshan Ground, Jammu.
Dattatreya Hosabale, general secretary, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was the special guest in the function presided over by the Defence Minister.
While referring to persistent challenges and threats posed by two hostile neighbours, Pakistan and China since independence, the Defence Minister also used the occasion to give a stern warning that new India, being a strong nation, was well poised to give a befitting reply to its enemies.
He reserved an oblique dig at BJP’s political detractors (read Congress mainly) targetting it for “stand-off with China in Ladakh" and accusing it (BJP) of “surrendering parts of Ladakh" to it (China). And Rajnath Singh delivered it in an impeccable and inimitable manner as he mentioned that in 1962, China annexed parts of Ladakh when Pandit Nehru was the Prime Minister. However, in the same breath, he averred that he did not doubt the “intention” of Pandit Nehru but was averse to his “policies.”
ARTICLE 370 ABROGATION OPENED NEW VISTAS FOR J&K PEOPLE
The Defence Minister also made special mention of the support extended by the people of J&K to the armed forces, commending their commitment to safeguard the interests of the nation like all other states.
“Except few people, the people of J&K have always supported the security forces in safeguarding the frontiers in all wars since independence. Maqbool Sherwani, whose contribution in saving J&K from Pakistani attacker would always remain exemplary, was one among countless such citizens. They performed their duties as an integral part of India. Hence we would always wonder why there should be an artificial legal barrier in the form of Article 370. Our great leaders like Dr S P Mookerjee, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra besides others opposed it and struggled for its removal. Dr Mookerjee even laid down his life for the realisation of “Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhaan, Ek Pradhan.” We were waiting for an opportune moment to meet our objective. As our party came to power, we accomplished it,” he said.
He stated, “J&K will always be an integral part of India and the government is ensuring that the Union Territory, like the rest of the country, touches newer heights of progress.” He asserted that the abrogation of an artificial legal barrier i.e., Article 370 brought a “new dawn of hope to the dreams and aspirations of the people of J&K, especially the youth.” The decision opened new avenues for the welfare of the people and the Union Territory was now progressing at a much faster rate, he said.
POK INTEGRAL PART OF INDIA
While referring to the sufferings of J&K people since independence due to Pakistan’s repeated misadventures and the atrocities suffered by PoK refugees, he mentioned about Parliament resolution on the Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan, reassuring that the country had not forgotten its resolve vis-a-vis areas illegally occupied by Pakistan.
“These areas are illegally occupied by Pakistan and a resolution to free it has been unanimously passed in Parliament of India. We have not forgotten that resolve and we will never do so. We have an unflinching belief in that resolution. How can it be possible that Baba Amarnath- a form of Lord Shiva is with us (on this side of Line of Control) and Maa Sharda Shakti Swaroopa (a form of Shakti) is across the LoC? This nagging scenario will continue to haunt us and I only wish that good sense should prevail upon Pakistan,” he said.
Mention of Maa Sharda Shakti Swaroopa was a reference to “Sharda Peeth” temple in PoK.
CHINA ANNEXED PARTS OF LADAKH WHEN PANDIT NEHRU WAS THE PRIME MINISTER
Rajnath Singh in his inimitable suave manner replied to the criticism of BJP’s political detractors on “ongoing stand-off with China in Ladakh” by reminiscing the debacle of 1962.
“When Chinese attacked India in 1962, Pandit Nehru was our Prime Minister. Many people criticise Pandit Nehru (for what happened then). I too come from a particular political party. I don’t want to criticise any Prime Minister of India. Similarly, I don’t want to raise a question mark on the “Neeyat” (intention) of any Prime Minister (of the country) as I know that there cannot be an ill-intention yet there can be a dispute about the policies (Neeyat Mein Koi Khot Nahin Ho Sakta, Neetiyon Ko Lekar Vivaad Ho Sakta Hai). We can criticise one for one’s policies but I don’t want to question or doubt one’s intention,” he said.
“In 1962, what price we had to pay (for Chinese assault), is known to everyone. What we suffered and lost, it could not be compensated or retrieved till date. But today the way India is marching forward at a swift pace, as the Defence Minister of the country, I can say with assertiveness that India, now, is no more a weak nation. New and confident India is emerging as a stronger nation. Your wish, if not today, will be fulfilled in the near future for sure, with this strong resolve, all Indians would have to stay stronger and strive hard to make India realise that objective,” the Defence Minister added.
In the same context, he said, “But India, now, has become a strong and confident nation which is well-equipped to protect its citizens from anyone, who tries to cast an evil eye.” Voicing government’s commitment to ensure jointness and “Aatmanirbharta” in the armed forces crucial to fight future wars, he said that making India a global superpower would be a fitting tribute to the country’s fallen heroes.
Deliberating on the numerous challenges faced by India post-independence particularly with reference to J&K, Rajnath said, the entire area of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh became the ‘main war theatre’ during 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars, when enemies tried to cast an evil eye, but whose plans were thwarted by the gallant Indian soldiers.
He recalled the brave deeds of Brigadier Usman and Major Somnath Sharma in 1948; Major Shaitan Singh’s valour in 1962; India’s historic victory in 1971 war and the contribution of Kargil brave-hearts Captain Vikram Batra and Captain Manoj Pandey who laid down their lives to protect the unity and integrity of India and continued to be an inspiration to the people, especially the youth. He also paid respects to the Indian soldiers who displayed unmatched bravery during the Galwan valley incident and ensured that the Indian tricolour continues to fly high.
“After tasting defeats in direct wars of 1965 and 1971, Pakistan adopted the path of proxy war. We wanted friendship with Pakistan but I don’t know why it is behaving differently. For over two decades, it has tried to ‘Bleed India with thousand cuts’. But, time and again, our brave soldiers have shown that no one can disturb the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India,” the Defence Minister added, assuring the nation that the armed forces were ready to face all future challenges.
Rajnath Singh remembered the then Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his leadership and words of encouragement to the armed forces personnel during the Kargil war despite numerous challenges and international pressure.
SETTING UP JOINT THEATRE COMMAND OF TRI-SERVICES
He termed the Kargil victory as a prime example of jointness among the three Services and their coordination with the government which safeguarded the sovereignty and integrity of the nation during testing times.
“The Kargil war underlined the dire need to achieve jointness and self-reliance in the defence sector. It has been our endeavour to achieve these qualities to remain prepared for future challenges. Setting up of Joint Theatre Commands and reforms to achieve self-reliance in defence are the steps taken in that direction,” he added.
While paying glowing tributes to the freedom fighters and the armed forces personnel, who have laid down their lives since independence in the service of the nation, stated, “It’s the underlying spirit of “Rashtriya Swabhiman” (national pride) at the core of their values that protected the unity and integrity of India as they made supreme sacrifices.
He asserted that the sole aim of the government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to safeguard the interests of the nation and it had taken a series of steps to develop a self-reliant defence ecosystem that provides indigenous state-of-the-art weapons or equipment to the armed forces to fight all kinds of future wars.
“Our priority is to achieve Atma Nirbharta (self-reliance) in defence as it is central to developing a robust security apparatus for the safety and security of the nation. To realise this vision, 68 percent of the defence budget has been earmarked for procurement of defence equipment from domestic sources. From a net importer, we have now become a net exporter which is not only catering to our own needs, but is also fulfilling the requirements of our friendly countries, in line with the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ vision,” he said.
“Due to the recent measures taken by the government, India today finds itself among the top 25 exporters of the world in defence items. We have set a target to achieve Rs 35,000 Cr worth of exports by 2025 and become a top exporter in the times to come. Our aim is to make India a global superpower. This will be a fitting tribute to our fallen heroes who made the supreme sacrifice while dreaming of an India which is strong, prosperous, self-reliant and victorious,” the Defence Minister said.
Earlier at the very outset, the Defence Minister lauded JKPF for its initiative to organise this programme to remember and pay tributes to the martyrs, who made supreme sacrifices to safeguard the frontiers and integrity of the country. He acknowledged the contribution of JKPF stating that given its work in the service of the nation and its people-centric initiatives in the last one decade, it had emerged as an effective “voice of J&K people.”
RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale in his address too recalled the valour displayed by martyrs and even the civilian population of J&K in defending the sovereignty of the country all these years. He stated that it was the responsibility of society as a cohesive unit to contribute to make India a developed and strong nation.
“But at the same time, we should never forget our martyrs, who laid down their lives for the nation and for our better tomorrow,” he said, while appreciating JKPF’s initiative to organise a function to remember and felicitate martyrs. “Similar functions should be organised in different parts of the country,” he said. He had a special word of appreciation for JKPF president Ramesh Sabharwal.
Among prominent dignitaries present on the occasion also included Justice (retired) Pramod Kohli, Union Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh, retired DGP Dr S P Vaid.
A number of serving armed forces personnel as well as veterans, including Param Vir Chakra awardee Captain Bana Singh, were also among those present on the occasion.
Prior to his address, the Defence Minister, while felicitating the martyrs’ families also interacted with them. He made it a point to climb down to be with them and listened to them.
Those honoured included the families of martyrs belonging to Jammu and Kashmir, who sacrificed their lives for safeguarding the territorial and national integrity of India and maintaining internal peace and security of the nation since 1947 till date.
Earlier on his arrival in Jammu at the Technical Airport, the Defence Minister was received by the J&K BJP leaders including the Union Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh, J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina and former Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh.