Modi marks Diwali with army men along Pakistan border (Roundup)

Amritsar/New Delhi, Nov 11 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday visited forward areas in Punjab, close to the India-Pakistan international border, to spend time with army personnel on the occasion of Diwali.

The visit of the prime minister was kept under wraps by defence authorities.

“People celebrate Diwali with their family members and loved ones. I too have come to celebrate it with you,” he said while addressing army personnel after paying homage to martyrs at the Dograi War Memorial at Khasa near Amritsar.

It was at this site that Indian troops fought one of the toughest battles against Pakistani troops and triumphed 50 years ago.

“I am honoured to be among you today on the occasion of Diwali,” said Modi, sporting an army cap.

“I spent time with our soldiers and we had a wonderful conversation,” Modi tweeted.

“The Battle of Dograi on September 22, 1965, was one of the toughest battles fought and won by our forces,” he said.

A defence spokesman said Modi, accompanied by army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh, visited the ‘Land of the Martyrs’, which is under the area of responsibility of Vajra Corps.

“It was on this land of Vajra Corps where all major and decisive battles of 1965 India-Pakistan war were fought thus earning the name of ‘Defenders of Punjab’,” the spokesman said.

Modi also visited the Barki War Memorial at Ferozepur town, close to the India-Pakistan border, and laid a wreath there to pay homage to martyrs.

He also paid homage to Param Vir Chakra awardee Company Quarter Master Havildar Abdul Hamid at the war memorial at Asal Uttar near Amritsar.

The prime minister arrived at the Halwara air force base on Wednesday morning from New Delhi. He went to forward areas in Amritsar and Ferozepur districts by an Indian Air Force helicopter.

Modi was accompanied to Halwara by Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha. The prime minister addressed IAF personnel at the base.

“The prime minister posed for photographs with the army and air force personnel and officers. He greeted a number of soldiers and shared food with them,” an army officer at one of the venues said.

He said the whole nation was indebted to the valiant soldiers who were defending the country’s borders.

“I have come to spend time with you all as you are our family members,” Modi said.

The Punjab frontier has borne the brunt of the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan with a number of heroic battles being fought by determined troops to ward off evil designs of the Pakistan Army.

Punjab shares a 553-km-long barbed wire fenced international border with Pakistan.

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