Tawang: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday described people living on borders as no ordinary citizens but India's "strategic assets" and said the road to a 'new India' as envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi runs through a "new North-East".
The Union government is working on a north-east industrial corridor to develop Arunachal Pradesh as a land bridge for South East Asia, he said.
Addressing the 'Maitree Diwas' celebrations here to boost civil-military friendship in the region bordering China, Singh said people living here are important to the country strategically.
He noted that inhabitants of the Ladakh region had given the first information about Pakistan's infiltration into Kargil.
"This is why I say, that the people living on the border here are not ordinary citizens, but they are our strategic assets.
"I don't consider citizens living on the Indo-China border as ordinary citizens. I believe they are our strategic assets," the defence minister said.
The government is working on developing a north-east industrial corridor which, he said, will create employment.
Singh said Arunachal Pradesh will act as a land bridge for South-East Asia where trade, jobs, tourism and economic opportunities will be available in abundance.
Noting that this was his first visit to Tawang, the defence minister said he was "deeply affected" by seeing this event while lauding the exercise.
Patriotism among people here is clearly visible and the relationship between ordinary citizens and armed forces are very deep, he said and called upon the youth to join the armed forces in large numbers.
"Along with Arunachal Pradesh, the whole of North-east is very important for India strategically. It (Arunachal) is surrounded by three countries. This state acts as a gateway for ASEAN countries and South-East Asia," he said.
"India is marching forward on the path of all-round progress under Modi... The road to new India runs through New North-East India," he said.
The defence minister said Arunachal Pradesh has been able to preserve its social and cultural heritage and is a role model for other states of the country.
Tradition and modernity walk side by side here, he said.
The two-day socio-military cultural extravaganza has been jointly organised by the Indian Army, Tawang Civil Administration and volunteers at the "High-Altitude Stadium".
Underling the government's commitment to improving connectivity in border areas, he said approval to construct a tunnel at Sela pass to Tawang, operationalisation of Pasighat Airport, nod to set up Hollongi Airport near Itanagar and work to establish three strategic railway lines in the region are some of the decisions in that direction.