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'Nothing more important for us than protecting the country': PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asserted that nothing is more important than protecting the nation but the country has seen a phase when its defence interests were "compromised"

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Himachal Pradesh. Photo: ANI

Prime Minister on Saturday asserted that nothing is more important than protecting the nation but the country has seen a phase when its defence interests were "compromised".

Speaking after inaugurating the Atal Tunnel, Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh, the Prime Minister said that his government has put great emphasis on development of border infrastructure.

"Emphasis has been put on the development of border infrastructure. In the Himalyan region, be it Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim or Arunachal Pradesh dozens of projects have been completed and others are underway. Several roads, bridges, tunnels are being made at a never seen before pace in the country in these regions. Its benefits are being extended to the common people as well as our armed forces personnel," Modi said.

"There is nothing more important for us than protecting the country. Keeping the interests of those who protect the country in mind is our topmost priority. But the country has also seen a period when its defence interests were compromised," he added.

The Prime Minister further talked about 'One Rank, One Pension' which he said has benefitted lakhs of retired armed forces personnel, including approximately one lakh personnel from Himachal Pradesh alone.

In an attack on the previous Congress-led governments, he said that for a long period the requirements of the armed forces had been neglected.

"Our government's decisions are proof that whatever we decide we apply it. There is nothing bigger than the interests and security of the country. The country's Air Force kept on demanding modern aircraft but they kept on playing with files after files. The requirements of ammunition, modern rifles, equipment which are used in biting cold, other equipment were sidelined," PM Modi said.

"There was a time when the might of our Ordinance factories surprised many, but they were left to their fate. A world-class organisation like HAL was set up for producing fighter planes, helicopters but that too was left to its fate. The greed of those who were in power for long stopped our army's capabilities. The Tejas fighter plane which the country is proud of today, they were prepared to shelve it. This is their truth," he added.

The Prime Minister further asserted that the reforms have been introduced by his government to ensure that modern arms and ammunition, equipments can be produced in the country. Allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence and the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) were some other major reforms highlighted by him.

Earlier, he had said that the strategically important tunnel's construction had been delayed once the former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government had run out of power and could be speeded up only after he came to power in 2014 in the country.

"Atal Ji laid the foundation stone of approach road of this tunnel in 2002. Once his government went out of power, this job was most likely forgotten. Till 2013-2014, progress was made only on 1,300 meters of this tunnel. Experts say that if the pace of progress had continued at the same rate then the tunnel would have likely been completed by 2040. After 2014, the project progressed with unprecedented pace. Every problem which BRO faced was removed, as a result, while earlier every year 300 metre tunnel was being constructed, it was increased to 1,400 metre per year. We completed 26 years work in just six years," the PM said.

Stressing that such delays in infrastructural make the country face losses every year, he said that not only does it keep the citizens deprived of facilities, but it also affects the country financially. While the initial estimation for completion of the tunnel was Rs 950 crores, it had been completed at a cost of over Rs 3,200 crores, at over three times the initial value, he said.

The PM further named several other key projects that were delayed, including the strategically important Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh.

The Atal Tunnel, at 9.02 km is the longest highway tunnel in the world and connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley in Rohtang.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State (MoS) Anurag Thakur, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane were also present at the ceremony, which was held shortly after 10 am.

The tunnel will ensure movement throughout the year. Earlier, the Valley was cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall. The tunnel reduces the road distance by 46 kilometres between Manali and Leh and the time by about four to five hours.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sat, October 03 2020. 14:13 IST
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