Staff Reporter

A large number of mourners pay last respects to the two killed in blast

NEW DELHI: Senior diplomat V. Venkateswara Rao and Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta, who were killed in the suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on Monday, were cremated with full state honours at Delhi Cantonment on Tuesday.

Despite a steady drizzle, a large number of mourners led by Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor turned up at the Delhi War Cemetery to pay their last respects to Brigadier Mehta, the seniormost Army officer to die abroad.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, All-India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi and a large number of Navy and Air Force officers. Defence Minister A. K. Antony, who had expressed his desire to attend the funeral, later sent an emissary.

Soldiers of the Rajputana Rifles gave a 21-gun salute and the buglers sounded the last post as Flt. Lt. Udit Mehta performed the last rites of his father.

Speaking to the media later, Flt. Lt. Mehta said that he was proud of his gallant father who had always been a source of inspiration. “The way he lived his brave soldierly life was worth emulating.”

Earlier, Army officers handed over the tricolour used for draping Brig. Mehta’s coffin and his uniform to his wife Sunita, as a mark of respect to the gallant officer.

Considered a bright and competent officer, Brig. Mehta served in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East.

He joined the Indian mission just five months ago and his family was staying with him in Kabul.

Venkateswara Rao was cremated later at the same venue. The 11-year-old son of the diplomat, Karthick, broke down while performing the last rites. Rao’s wife Malathi Rao and daughter Amulya were present at the funeral.

Fluent in Dari, one of the main languages in Afghanistan, Rao was considered an authority on the neighbouring countries, especially Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.