New Delhi: In the backdrop of rising cross-border terror activities in Kashmir and standoff with China in Dokalam, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday called upon the armed forces to defend the country's borders with "all its might".
In a strong message to Pakistan, he asked it to refrain from continuing with "abhorrent acts" of terrorism against India and reminded Islamabad of the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army on September 29 last year on terror launch pads.
He said "significant casualties" were caused to terrorists and those providing support to them in the surgical strikes.
While referring to contributions of countless patriots in India's freedom struggle, Jaitley without directly referring to any country, said the nation now looks at the armed forces to defend its borders.
"The nation now looks to you to defend its borders with all your might and to the best of your strength and abilities so that all our people sleep in peace tonight, so that we all see a new dawn together, tomorrow and to take our country to new heights of peace and prosperity for all our people," he said.
The comments assumed significance as armies of India and China are locked in a face-off in Dokalam for the past eight weeks.
The defence minister was addressing the armed forces personnel in a customary radio broadcast on the eve of the 71st Independence Day.
Referring to cross border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, Jaitley said the armed forces personnel continue to be vigilant on the Line of Control in defending the nation as "our adversary continues with its abhorrent acts". "Despite our repeated requests to our Western neighbour not to use our territory occupied by it not only to train terrorists but also use it as launch pad for pushing these militants into India, such nefarious activities continued," he said.
Jaitley said India ran out of patience as these terrorists were not only targeting the armed forces but also civilians and based on credible inputs, the Indian Army had conducted surgical strikes on September 29 last year at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists.
"The operations were focused on ensuring that these terrorists did not succeed in their design to cause destruction and endanger the lives of our citizens. During these counter terrorist operations significant casualties were caused to terrorists and those providing support to them," he said.
"Even now our jawans continue to be vigilant on the Line of Control, defending the nation, as our adversary continues with its abhorrent acts. Some of our soldiers continue to make the supreme sacrifice while defending our motherland. The nation is indebted to their martyrdom," he further said. Hailing sacrifice of the armed forces, Jaitley assured them that the government will do all that is necessary to keep their morale high and to meet their functional requirements.
Listing initiatives for welfare of the security personnel, he said the government has taken decision on recommendations of the 7th pay commission on allowances, which will benefit 14 lakh personnel.
He said rates of Siachen allowance for extreme risk and hardship has been increased from Rs 14,000 per month to Rs 30,000 per month while counter insurgency operations allowance was increased from between Rs 3,000 and Rs 11,700 per month to between Rs 6,000 and Rs 16,900 per month.
He said Territorial Army allowance has been hiked from between Rs 175 and 450 per month to Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000 per month.
Jaitley said the benefits of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme started reaching the ex-servicemen and families since last year.
"Till July 10 this year, a sum of Rs 4,156 crore and Rs 2,385 crore have been paid towards first and second instalments of OROP arrears to around 20,40,000 Ex-Servicemen/family pensioners and 15,93,000 Ex-Servicemen respectively.
"Further, a sum of Rs 2,250 crore has also been paid to 15,13,000 ex-servicemen as third instalments of OROP arrears. The Government is also sympathetically considering the report of the one-man judicial committee headed by Justice L Narasimha Reddy on OROP to look into the anomalies, if any, arising out of implementation of OROP and will take decision soon," he said.
Jaitley also said that the government has enhanced penury grant to non-pensioner ex-servicemen/widows to Rs 4,000 per month from the existing rate of Rs 1,000 per month. The defence minister also mentioned about the a campaign to have a 'Wall of Valour' in 1,000 educational institutions across the country.
"Portraits of Param Vir Chakra decorated soldiers will be displayed at designated places on educational campuses to instil sense of nationalism among the students," he said.