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Revisiting India’s maritime heritage through Samudra Setu

The Samudra Setu initiative by the Navy to repatriate Indians stuck overseas due to Covid-19 has also allowed us to look back at India’s maritime history to connect globally and celebrate the common or shared heritage.

Commodore Odakkal Johnson

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File photo of Indian nationals standing in a queue to board an Indian Navy ship INS Jalashwa as it sails from Colombo Port to India under the second phase of Operation Samudra Setu. ANI

Size is never an indication of significance, is a maxim that has taken the world by storm even as a little virus has steered the waves of our imagination and attention through nearly six months. The resulting world has turned somehow more egalitarian with connectivity through two-dimensional digital media breaking conventional thought processes and hierarchies. Silently, the oceanic medium as the great commons, presents the largest canvas of history and heritage to remain a frontier of connectivity amidst cultures and contestations. This article draws attention to the waters surrounding the Indian peninsula and its narrative in an attempt to trigger interest and greater involvement and sea-mindedness.

 As global governments and agencies grapple with the pandemic, the Indian Navy has selflessly contributed by taking the responsibility of serving the nation’s cause, deserves acknowledgement and appreciation. The primary objective of the Indian Navy has always been to safeguard the nation’s maritime borders in conjunction with other armed forces of the Union, and to discourage or defeat any threats or aggression against Indian territory, its people or maritime interests during war and peace. India has launched a massive effort to evacuate Indian citizens who have been stranded in various countries due to the travel lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic under the “Vande Bharat” mission and the Indian Navy named its evacuation operation “Samudra Setu” i.e. Sea Bridge, an exercise which might be one of the largest efforts in importance and reach in a historical significance. Yet, India is not new in building maritime heritage as her seas are witnesses to a flow of events through time.

Indian knowledge systems have always valued the concept that ‘all life comes from the ocean’, taking it back to when flippers became legs through an amphibian transition. Walking, talking and traveling is a short extract of a saga which is celebrated as ‘man and ocean’ connection. Indeed, what is a better time to recall this than current global economic upheavals and employment crises due to the virus for celebrating a festival that truly represents the spirit of commerce and finance since ancient times.

It is a lockdown period with month of Shravan behind us and rains of Bhadrapada upon us. Sea has always been the centre of human existence and has been associated with a variety of celebrations and rituals across ages. They throw light on how India’s sociological lineage of seasonal festivals and associated rituals, prevalent among certain coastal communities depict the flourishing maritime practices of yore. They also indicate a clear connect between the maritime voyages and the climatological time frames. Let us travel across the coastline of ‘Maritime India’ to get a snapshot of a great heritage saga.

The first narrative is festive. The essence of the festival of ‘Khudrukuni Osha’ lies in the story of Tapoi which depicts the safe return of her brothers and father from Bali. It is celebrated mainly in the coastal region of Odisha in the month of ‘Bhadrapada’ and is closely connected with the festival of Boita Bandana or Bali Yatra. Narali Purnima celebrated in the Konkan Coast marks the beginning of venturing out in the safe seas after a brief gap due to the monsoons. The seafarers manage their time by undertaking boat-repairs, net-making, rope-making during this period which is of utmost importance in their activities while on sail. Bali Yatra or Boita Bandana bears testimony to the rich maritime legacy of ancient Orissa. It epitomizes the application of climate and weather to navigational advantage by ancient Indian mariners. Indian mariners appear to have learned enough about the monsoon winds and ocean currents and used this practically to sail across the Indian Ocean to the islands of Indonesia. Celebrated on the day of Kartik Purnima, this was considered to be the most auspicious day to set off on a maritime venture as the wind, the currents and the prevalent weather played a crucial role in fixing the route and was most suited for their journey to the islands of Bali, Sumatra and Java. The discovery of archaeological artefacts such as pottery, beads, coins all along the eastern coast of India and that in Sri Lanka, Bali, Vietnam, Sumatra etc. corroborates that there indeed was a flourishing maritime trade of India with countries in the far east.

These cultural celebrations linked with the climatological aspects that aided in navigation speak volumes about our Indian nautical traditions, practices and of course emotions as women give a hearty send-off to their loved ones. It can be thus understood that, with time, overseas trading dwindled and the present-day Odisha is known more for agriculture and mines than for its maritime splendour. However, traditions remain. Thousands of lamps lit up the landscape in the predawn darkness, making a wonderful commemoration of those ancient, glorious times. Merchants may no longer sail the seas, but we acknowledge the foundation our ancestors laid for vibrant trade and cultural exchanges, and pay tribute to the Kalingan sailors where women recite the Odiya lyrics– ‘Aa-KaMa-Bai, Pana-Gua- Thoi’. The ritual by launching a paper boat or a boat made of banana peels with clay diya placed inside, makes a marvellous event to watch thousands of such boats floating on the river water/ water tanks and thousands of people conglomerating with colourful dresses creating a joyful mood.

 The blowing of conch, music, dance, ritual funfair and bursting crackers being the mega events of the day contribute to making of an unforgettable event, and the ‘boat’ we see full of emotions, connections and values sails far into the sea. It is worthy to note that indeed this ‘boat’, a symbol of journey into voyage of life became an object of reverence for many, as a lot of lives depended on it, and that’s why ship building itself counts as a heritage full of traditions and values. And this is why just like the coastal festivals and rituals, the ship building tradition of India, practiced since ancient times, which talks immensely about the flourishing maritime link between the Indian subcontinent and other parts of the world, deserves attention.

The second narrative is of technical prowess in maritime. Indian coastline, was and is dotted with numerous ports and harbours, actively supporting maritime activities of the local and coastal traders as well as fishing communities, and thus boat-building and portrelated communities thrived. Ships proved to be the catalysts for securing trade links, exchange of cultures and supporting warfare at sea. From reed boats to massive ocean-going vessels, it is evident that India has a rich shipbuilding heritage.

It is very interesting to note how under the various rulers, shipbuilding and repair yards were set up along the western and eastern coastline. One such example which can be quoted here is that of Mandvi, a small town in Gujarat, located on the western coast of India which continues to practice the traditional craft of shipbuilding even today. The ships are constructed with full precision and without drawings and written measurements. The design is in the minds of the boat builders and a small model is prepared prior to the creation of the big vessel. Every small element of the ship is constructed manually by the craftsmen without a formal degree.

 The small-scale model is then converted into a life-size ocean-going vessel. They are trained by the previous generations, working in the same field and making the boat with the knowledge embedded in their mind. The process that involves laying the keel, building the structure and filling in a sealant using fish and oil (a traditional technique for water proofing) is all done by the skilled craftsmen. Their craftsmanship is well appreciated by the Arabs who continue to purchase the vessels even today. The boat is constructed entirely on the silted land along the Rukhmati river coast. The entire coastline becomes the yard. Once the boat is completed, the land beneath the boat is dug up using minimal machinery. Once the water level rises to the adequate levels, the boat is flagged off. Today, with the rapid evolution in technology and material, the intangible heritage which gives birth to a tangible boat is declining. It is very disappointing to know that initially around 20 boats were used to be built at a stretch while now as less as 2 boats are built. Once a thriving port, Mandvi, that practices the tradition of boat building for the last 400 years is now on the verge of closing down. The rich heritage of ship building and constructing the boats using traditional techniques and material will thus slowly disappear with the modern generation. The ship building heritage of India is in an alarming situation and thus needs to be looked into, preserved, and promoted since, the vessels are an object of reverence and are worshipped by the coastal and seafaring communities and possess immense material value in their lives.

 The third jewel in this heritage tapestry is archaeology. When we talk about the material value, it is noteworthy that the material we use speaks volumes about man and his life and this is why archaeologists and heritage enthusiasts treasure them. Archaeologists all over the world don’t dig up the past, but unearth stories of people using a single source known as material culture. These remains can be any objects that people created, modified, or used to learn how people lived in specific times and places, daily lives, their interactions with each other and the environment and surroundings, beliefs and values.

A similar attempt was made a few years ago to understand the maritime past of India, and the outcome was super interesting. Sites which immensely contributed to India’s rich maritime history such as Kaveripattinam, Kodumanal, Arikamedu, Pattanam and many more were identified and studied on a large scale. One amongst them was the site of Pattanam in Ernakulam district in the state of Kerala. Excavations at Pattanam add to the story of the strong maritime contacts of the South West Coast of India with the Mesopotamian and Mediterranean regions. It was an extensive excavation conducted as part of the Muziris Heritage Project by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and various institutes. The word ‘Pattanam’ has ancient origins and means port city. It played an unparalleled role in activities along the Malabar coast in early Indian Ocean trade. Ceramics such as ‘Terra sigillata’, ‘Amphorae’, etc which belong to foreign origin were found on a large scale. Excavations revealed a wharf and a warehouse structure, a wooden canoe in a waterlogged context, along with nine bollards of teakwood. The wharf proved to be a unique and important find giving further clues to the maritime association of the site. The impressive range of evidence unearthed at ‘Pattanam’ on maritime exchanges across the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean region indicate oceanic trade that began 15 centuries before what the world knew about the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama in the last decade of the 15th century CE. The significance of ‘Pattanam’ is that it was an outstanding example of sons of the region, who, with their technology, craftsmanship, architecture and immense natural wealth, made excellent use of both land and sea, contributing to maritime trade connected with the world.

Three short narrations cannot a full saga make but may tickle your mental taste buds for more. Come awaken an inquiry into how we sailed through our rich maritime past taking into account the factor of heritage. Thus, one can by now understand that though the word ‘heritage’ can be defined into various angles, it is basically a quality or possession which has been passed on from one generation to another, shaping the past and present, and influencing the future and building our identity.

As the Indian Ocean has been a major means of communication of earliest long-distance navigations between the western and the eastern parts of Asia, Africa and often extending well upto much of Europe for several millennia, it has witnessed extensive maritime trade, naval expeditions and pilgrimages across its extensive network. Oceanic activity in the region encouraged by the unique feature of monsoons allowed the countries to have an active participation in maritime trade, thus creating a long history covering a period of about five millennia from the very dawn of the Indus Valley civilization. Thus, maritime history and heritage, as a subset of the vast heritage left behind, is indeed a testimony of our strong connections and relationship with the sea. Ships traversing the ocean carried valuable merchandise, skills, knowledge, civilization, culture, religions ideas inventions, artistic style, philosophies, and social customs from one end to another. There was a golden age of Indian seafaring, a major part of it remaining unknown or unexplored creating an opportunity for us at Maritime History Society.

 Indeed, if earth is said to have been born 4.5 billion years ago, then the abovementioned stories were just three pieces put together of a vast treasure of knowledge hidden under the maritime dimension in the form of arts, customs and traditions. From prehistoric times to modern period and till date, from stories of Indian mythologies to their depictions on tangible aspects of heritage like temples, coins, etc, from gaining food to gaining wealth, a sea or an ocean forms to be an indispensable part of human lives and a huge secret keeper of past civilisations. Since the nation is recognised through its achievements and our past achievements survive in the form of traditions, histories and culture, this segment of heritage maritime history offers a huge scope to connect globally and celebrate the common or shared heritage.

 It can be a matter of pride that today, chapter ‘Samudra Setu’ is indeed a legacy carried ahead from ample of such cultural setus built across the seas in the past. Studying them is a responsibility and pride as after all maritime heritage is that link which enables us to build bridges across the seas connecting countries, cultures and civilisations and we being researchers, it’s our duty to uncover and sing glories of their connections and contribution to humankind. Maritime History Society has attempted over 42 years to flame the fire of knowledge pursuit to consolidate our heritage at sea and hopefully get the geography to lead to the sea where life begins and sustains. Let heritage awaken our maritime consciousness.

 The author is director and head of research at Maritime History Society, an academic initiative of Western Naval Command of Indian Navy.

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Defence

SWARNIM VIJAY VARSH CELEBRATIONS AT RASHTRIYA RIFLES SECTOR HEADQUARTERS

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: The Swarnim Vijay Varsh Victory Flame after having entered the serene Kashmir Valley through the Navyug Tunnel on Tuesday, continued its journey and made its way to Anantnag City, also known as the ‘Land of Infinite Springs’. The Victory flame was received by Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, Wuzur and travelled to Khanabal, Anantnag via Mir Bazar, Khudwani and Wampoh and reached Rashtriya Rifles Sector Headquarter, Khanabal.

The flame was received with tremendous fervour by school children, local youth, 13 Veer Naris, 55 ex-servicemen, personnel from Security Forces & Law Enforcement Agencies and many other civilian dignitaries from the local administration. Thereafter, the Victory Flame was escorted through the Khanabal Junction, proudly carried by military personnel & civilians alike before entering the Khanabal Military Garrison. Later, the Victory Flame was handed over to the Commander, Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal at the War Memorial. Wreaths were laid to pay homage to the unsung War Heroes, by the visiting dignitaries, including Mr Hilal Ahmed Shah, Mayor Anantnag, Mr Ghulam Hussain Sheikh, IAS, Additional DC Anantnag, Mr Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, SSP Anantnag, Mr DP Upadhyay, DIG CRPF, Mr Abdul Jabbar, IPS, DIG (South Kashmir) and Commander Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal, followed by a ceremonial Guard of Honour. Post the solemn event, the celebrations continued with cultural performances by school children and local artists, followed by the felicitation of Veer Naris, Veer Matas & veterans by the dignitaries present.

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Defence

CHINA’S NEW BRI: BRIDE RESUPPLY INITIATIVE

Ashish Singh

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China is facing a mammoth problem due to a huge gender imbalance, with the male population exceeding the female population by more than 30 million, as per the data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. The imbalance in the post-2000s and population of marriageable age have become incrementally vicious & even more urgent.

In 2020, the sex ratio of the total population in China was 105.302 males per 100 females as per data provided by Statistic Times. In total, there are 738,247,340 or 738.25 million males and 701,076,434 or 701.08 million females in China. The percentage of the female population is 48.71 percent compared to 51.29 percent male population.

The most influential factor behind such skewed figures has been the erstwhile infamous “one-child” policy of China from 1979 to 2015, which prompted many parents to decide that their sole child must be a boy. Though China reversed it in 2016 to allow families to have two children as fears grew about the country’s fast-ageing population and shrinking workforce, the change has not yet resulted in a baby boom, with Chinese women often delaying or avoiding childbirth and young couples blaming rising costs and insufficient policy support for families.

China now has a huge, and growing, gender gap among the generations most likely to be seeking a spouse—a bride shortage. As on date there are around 35 million males more than females and this figure is expected to grow by almost 5% every year (as per present sex ratio), meaning that China will have more than 50 million ‘Extra Men’ within next five years. Experts project that many of these extra men will never marry; others may go to extreme measures to do so. The difficulty that these Chinese men now face in finding wives, combined with a lack of protections in China, is driving a brutal business of selling women and girls from neighbouring countries.

BRIDE RESUPPLY INITIATIVE

It has emerged that agents in China and Pakistan have used the garb of CPEC to literally kidnap girls from lower socio-economic backgrounds, especially from minority communities such as Christians, Hindus and marry them off to Chinese men. US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback during a statement in Dec 2020 mentioned this as one of the reasons for designating Pakistan as a country of particular concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Most of these Pakistani brides are given inflated information about the socio-economic status of these Chinese grooms which turns out to be false. These women and girls are typically tricked by brokers who promise well-paid employment across the border in China. Once in China, they find themselves at the mercy of the brokers, who sell them for around $3,000 to $13,000 to Chinese families. Once purchased they may be held prisoner and pressured to produce babies as quickly as possible. Similar stories have been documented by journalists and researchers in some other countries too like Cambodia, North Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam, among others, although on a relatively smaller scale.

As part of the Belt and Road Initiative’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan received a $ 62-billion infrastructural investment package to develop major works, from roads to power plants. Quite naturally, the Pak government has sought to curtail investigations, putting “immense pressure” on officials from the Federal Investigation Agency pursuing trafficking networks fearing such efforts could sour relationships with the country’s all weather ally- China, says Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped parents rescue several young girls from China and prevented others from being sent there. Other countries with trafficked brides face similar asymmetrical power and economic relationships with China, and analysts doubt these nations will discuss difficult topics like action against bride trafficking in negotiations with their powerful neighbour.

The Chinese government’s main response for many years seemed to be simply to ignore growing allegations about authorities’ complicity in these crimes. But the problem is becoming too big to ignore; the government’s stonewalling is gradually being replaced by a mixture of criminal justice and propaganda responses, neither of which get to the real issue of gender discrimination.

As per experts’ calculations, it will take about 50 to 60 years to slowly resolve the gender imbalance formed 20 to 30 years ago if some concrete steps are taken today. Well, while that might be true, Xi Jinping does not need to bother much having a sidekick like Pakistan under his thumb. With a sinking economy, ever rising pile of debts with some requiring immediate payback and the FATF sword looming on is neck since ages, Pakistan is left with very little choice other than complying with the Chinese demands even if that’s at the cost of its daughters.

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AT ASEAN DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING, RAJNATH SINGH CALLS FOR AN OPEN AND INCLUSIVE ORDER IN INDO-PACIFIC

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called for an open and inclusive order in Indo-Pacific based upon respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations while addressing the 8th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus on Wednesday. The ADMM Plus is an annual meeting of Defence Ministers of 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and eight dialogue partner countries – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. Brunei is the Chair of the ADMM Plus forum this year.

Rajnath Singh also stressed on “peaceful resolutions of disputes through dialogue and adherence to international rules and laws.” “India has strengthened its cooperative engagements in the Indo-Pacific based on converging visions and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Premised upon the centrality of ASEAN, India supports utilisation of ASEAN-led mechanisms as important platforms for implementation of our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, he added. During thematic discussions on regional and international security environment, Rajnath Singh put forth India’s views before the Defence Ministers of ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partners. He stressed that the emerging challenges to international peace and security cannot be addressed with outdated systems designed to deal with trials of the past.

The Raksha Mantri reiterated India’s support to freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded commerce for all in international waters in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “Maritime security challenges are a concern to India. The Sea lanes of Communication are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region,” he stressed. The Raksha Mantri hoped that the Code of Conduct negotiations will lead to outcomes keeping with international law and do not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not party to these discussions.

On the ‘Act East Policy’, announced by Prime Minister Narender Modi in November 2014,Rajnath Singh stated that the key elements of the policy aim to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Terming terrorism and radicalisation as gravest threats to world peace and security, Rajnath Singh called for collective cooperation to fully disrupt terror organisations and their networks; identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable and ensure that strong measures are taken against those who support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists. As a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he said India remains committed to combat financing of terrorism.

To deal with cyber threats, the Raksha Mantri called for a multi-stakeholder approach, guided by democratic values, with a governance structure that is open and inclusive and a secure, open and stable internet with due respect to sovereignty of countries, that would drive the future of cyberspace. On the most recent challenge faced by the world, COVID-19, Rajnath Singh said the effect of the pandemic is still unfolding and the test, therefore, is to make sure that the world economy moves on the path of recovery and no one is left behind. This is only possible if entire humanity is vaccinated, he stated. “Globally available patent free vaccines, unhindered supply chains and greater global medical capacities are some of the lines of effort that India has suggested for a combined effort,” he highlighted.

Referring to the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, the Raksha Mantri stated that India remains one of the first to respond in times of distress in the immediate as well as extended neighbourhood. As a founding member of the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM), India seeks to enhance capacity building through collaboration in the areas of Maritime Search & Rescue, he added. Rajnath Singh also underscored the importance India attaches to ASEAN centrality and unity in ensuring peace and stability in the region. He said India shares a deep connect with ASEAN and has continued its active engagement in many areas contributing to regional peace and stability, particularly through ASEAN led mechanisms, such as East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and ADMM-Plus. The India-ASEAN strategic partnership has been strengthened by virtue of flourishing cultural and civilisational links and enhanced people-to-people cooperation, he added. The Raksha Mantri thanked Brunei for conducting the ADMM Plus despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) Vice Admiral Atul Kumar Jain and other senior officials of Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs attended the meeting.

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INSPECTOR GENERAL M.V. PATHAK TAKES OVER AS THE COMMANDER OF COAST GUARD REGION NORTH EAST

Ashish Singh

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Inspector General MV Pathak took over as the Regional Commander, Coast Guard Region North East, Kolkata from Inspector General AK Harbola on Monday. Inspector General Pathak is an alumnus of the US Coast Guard Academy, Connecticut, having undergone the IMO Course from this academy.

During his illustrious career of more than three decades, Inspector General Pathak has commanded all classes of Coast Guard Ships. The shore appointments held by the flag officer include Chief of Staff to Coast Guard Commander (Western Seaboard) Mumbai, Commander Coast Guard (Kerala and Mahe), Principal Director (Administration), and Director (Manpower, Recruitment and Training) at Coast Guard Headquarters, New Delhi.

Before taking over the reins of Coast Guard Region North East, Inspector General Pathak was the Regional Commander, Coast Guard Region (Andaman & Nicobar) at Port Blair for three years. The flag officer is a recipient of the ‘Tatrakshak Medal’. Inspector General Maneesh Pathak on taking over said that his priority will be strengthening the Coastal Security mechanism through coordination with all State and Central Agencies and to make the seas safe for all fishermen and seafarers. He further added that the Indian Coast Guard is committed to in motto “Vayam Rakshamah” which means “We Protect”.

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INDIAN ARMY CONDUCTS RAIL TRIALS ON DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR

Ashish Singh

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The recently developed “Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC)” by the Indian Railways provides faster movement of freight across the Country. The Indian Army, on Monday, conducted a successful trial by moving a military train loaded with vehicles and equipment from New Rewari to New Phulera validating the efficacy of the DFC. The intricate and synchronised coordination by the Indian Army with Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL) and Indian Railways will significantly enhance the mobilisation capability of the Armed Forces. These trials were part of the “Whole of the Nation Approach” for optimising national resources and achieve seamless synergy among various ministries and departments.

Interactions by the Indian Army with all stakeholders including DFCCIL and Indian Railways will now assist in leveraging the DFC and allied infrastructure into the mobilisation matrix of Armed Forces. Development of infrastructure at certain locations to support mobilisation and trials to validate move of defence owned rolling stock on Roll On-Roll Off (RO-RO) service is being formalised and modalities are being evolved. These trials herald the first step in this process to pave the way for enhancing the operational readiness of the Armed Forces. This initiative would set in place processes to ensure that military requirements are dovetailed in the national infrastructure development at the planning stage itself.

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NORTHERN ARMY COMMANDER FELICITATES ‘VEER NARIS’ AND WAR HEROES OF 1971 INDIA-PAK WAR

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: Lt Gen YK Joshi, GOC-in-C, Northern Command laid a wreath to Swarnim Vijay Mashaal and paid tributes to fallen heroes at the Warrior’s Grove War Memorial, Crossed Swords Division, Akhnoor as a part of Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations. The Army Commander accompanied by Lt Gen MV Suchindra Kumar, GOC White Knight Corps was briefed on the saga and valour of gallant soldiers of Indian Armed Forces during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. A documentary on the 1971 Indo-Pak War was screened for the audience.

The General officer felicitated Veer Naris and war heroes of the 1971 Indo Pak war at Akhnoor. The GOC-in-C, a war hero and Vir Chakra awardee, appreciated the veterans for their invaluable services for the motherland. He also expressed deep gratitude for the sacrifices of the Veer Naris. Lt Gen YK Joshi, GOC-in-C, Northern Command interacted with all veterans and Veer Naris following Covid protocol. He expressed gratitude and acknowledged the contributions of the populace of Jammu & Kasmir who have played a pivotal role during various operations. He assured Veer Naris and veterans of full support at all times as was extended during the Covid pandemic. He motivated them to take maximum benefits from the facilities rendered by the Indian Army at their doorstep including Covid Care Facilities, Covid vaccination, Covid preventive measures, and government schemes, etc.

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