Like many other parents, their father, mother, and other relatives joined in to congratulate the two boys who on Saturday walked their ‘antim pag [Final Steps]’ out of the hallowed portals of the historic Chetwode building to become officers in the Indian Army.

Nephews of a Kargil martyr, Vivek Giri (23) and Vishal Giri (24), are brothers who passed out together from the Indian Military Academy (IMA) on Saturday. Their father is a Subedar in the Army. “My uncle died in the Kargil war and that inspired me to join the Army. It isn’t about death. The Indian Army is all about honour and integrity,” said Lieutenant Vishal Giri after his epaulette was adorned with two stars post the passing out parade.

Rachit Pande (23), who graduated in Chemistry, reiterated that living up to the tradition of the Indian Army even at the cost of his life was his goal. “My father is a Colonel in the Army but that did not inspire me to join the Army,” Lieutenant Pande said.

With 617 Gentleman Cadets (GCs) crossing the portals of the Chetwode building on Saturday, the number of officers who have passed out of the IMA since its inauguration in 1932 reached 54,188.

Of the GCs who passed out, the highest — 105 — were from Uttar Pradesh. This was followed by 80 from Haryana, and 46 from Uttarakhand.

So far, a total of 1,614 Foreign Gentleman Cadets (FGCs) have passed out from the IMA, of whom 71 FGCs participated in Saturday’s passing out parade.

Of this year’s FGCs, 52 were from Afghanistan and the remaining 19 FGCs were from the friendly foreign countries of Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Nepal, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.

The number of FGCs from Afghanistan has increased in the last two years with the increase in the number of seats for Afghans in the IMA and the National Defence Academy (NDA).

Sixteen senior officers from the Afghan Army, some of whom were accompanied by their families, witnessed the parade. These officers were trained at the IMA between 1974 and 1982. The officers said it gave them a great sense of pride to return to the land which helped Afghanistan and continued to do so.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who was the Reviewing Officer at the parade, commended the GCs for maintaining ‘high discipline standards.’

“We are a peace loving nation,” Mr. Antony said. He said no one should perceive this as a sign of weakness.

Mr. Antony congratulated the Army for showing unprecedented valour while handling the catastrophe that struck Uttarakhand in June this year. “I would like to congratulate all the officers and men of the Indian Army and the Armed Forces for the exemplary courage shown during the unprecedented calamity in the State of Uttarakhand.”

The Sword of Honour was awarded to Akshat Joshi for best all-round performance. He was also awarded the Silver Medal for standing second in the Regular Course.

A resident of Chandigarh, Lieutenant Joshi is the first in his family to be in the Indian Army. “Had I to choose between the Army and my family, I would always choose the Army and my parents would want me to do the same,” he said.

Lieutenant Joshi said what most of the Army officers would do was to live by Chetwode’s motto according to which safety, honour, and welfare of one’s country came before everything else.

Kamlesh Mani was awarded the Gold Medal and Vicky Duhoon was awarded the Bronze for standing first and third, respectively, in the Regular Course.

The Silver Medal for standing first in the Technical Entry Scheme Course was awarded to Ashwin Nagpal and the Silver Medal for topping the Technical Graduate Course was awarded to Ratan Singh.

Bhutan’s Kuenga bagged the Silver Medal for the best all-round performanceamong FGCs.