Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday celebrated Diwali with the personnel of Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), mandated to guard 3,488 km Sino-India border, in Uttarakhand and said that India was taking great strides forward in the defence sector.The Prime Minister reached Harshil village at around 7.50 a.m. in a special Indian Air Force plane and distributed sweets to the personnel, according to an ITBP spokesperson.Harshil is situated at the confluence of Jalandhari Gadh and Bhagirathi rivers and at the foot of the mountain that lies at the head of the Baspa Valley at the height of around 8,000 feet.Modi was flanked by Army chief Bipin Rawat.Greeting the Army and ITBP personnel on the occasion, Modi said their devotion to duty in the remote icy heights was enabling the strength of the nation and securing the future and the dreams of 125 crore Indians. "Diwali is the festival of lights which spreads the light of goodness and dispels fear. The jawans, through their commitment and discipline, are also helping to spread the sense of security and fearlessness among the people," Modi said.
The Prime Minister recalled that he has been visiting soldiers on Diwali ever since he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. He also spoke of his interactions with the ITBP personnel, years ago when he was part of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.Modi said: "India is taking great strides forward in the defence sector" and spoke of various measures being taken for welfare of ex-servicemen, including OROP (One Rank, One Pension)." He said that the Indian Armed Forces draw admiration and appreciation across the world and in UN Peacekeeping operations.The Prime Minister also interacted with people from nearby areas who had gathered to greet himLater, Modi left for the Kedarnath shrine where he is scheduled to offer prayers and review the reconstruction of the shrine.Many parts around the shrine were devastated in the 2013 flash floods. The Prime Minister has taken personal interest in the reconstruction and has visited the shrine twice in the last six months.It has been snowing in the region for the past few days and the road from the VIP helipad to the shrine that had been covered with snow has been cleared.Modi is also scheduled to watch a video presentation prepared by the state government officials on the reconstruction work of the guesthouse near the shrine.