For the first time, the country’s defence establishment, led by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, on Saturday paid homage to those who fought the 1962 war with China and sacrificed their lives.

The Minister and the three Service chiefs, followed by Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju, laid wreaths at Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate here.

More than 3,000 Indian soldiers laid down their lives during the war. It was the first time they were officially honoured.

Earlier, Mr. Antony ruled out any possibility of China repeating 1962, asserting that the present day India is not of that period and is now fully capable of defending itself. The country did not focus on enhancing the infrastructure in the north-east, but has substantially improved its assets and manpower now, he noted.

India would continue to develop infrastructure and provide best equipment to the armed forces while continuing dialogues with China on the border issue and maintaining cordial relations with that country, he said. Speaking to journalists at another event to honour the 1962 war soldiers, he said, “I would like to assure the nation that the India of today is not the India of 1962. Over the years, successive governments, learning lessons from the past, have strengthened our capabilities and modernised our armed forces... we are confident that the armed forces will be able to protect the border in event of any threat.”

India was holding dialogue with China to find a solution to the long-pending border dispute and had established a mechanism to “immediately settle’’ any tensions on the border.

Asked why it took 50 years for the government to honour the soldiers of the 1962 war, the Minister said: “Nothing changed. This is the 50th year and we thought this is the time the whole nation must pay our homage to the officers and jawans who lost their lives to protect our border.”

“The major lesson is that we have to strengthen our armed forces to protect our borders. That we are doing and now we are in a position to involve armed forces, intelligence agencies and all those involved in the protection of national security that process is much stronger,” he said.

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