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Aero India 2023

Indian Armed Forces one of the finest in the world: IAF Chief

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar and other dignitaries during the 8th Armed Forces Veterans' Day event, at Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (Photo: PTI/ Defence PRO)

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Armed Forces have transformed with changing times to meet the challenges of the "entire spectrum of warfare," IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari said on Sunday.

In his address at an event hosted in New Delhi to mark the 8th Armed Forces Veterans Day, he also asserted that resilient spirit, leadership, and vision of its veterans have laid the foundation of today's Armed Forces.

The programme held at Manekshaw Centre in Delhi Cantonment was also attended by Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar, several senior officers of the three Services, a large number of veterans or their family members.

"The Indian Armed Forces, we will all agree, are one of the finest in the world and have transformed with changing times to meet the challenges of the entire spectrum of warfare," the IAF Chief said.

The Indian Air Force, in particular, has grown from a very modest beginning just about 90 years ago to being "one of the most formidable air forces in the world", he said.

This has been possible only through the "sustained efforts and yeoman services" rendered by the forces' veterans over the years, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari added.

"I acknowledge with gratitude the sterling contributions made by all our veterans, whose resilient spirit, leadership and vision have laid the foundation of today's armed forces," he said.

Today is also a day to poignantly remember all the veterans who laid down their lives for the nation, the IAF Chief said, adding, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty."

The IAF, the youngest of the services, is only 91 years old. And, as of December 31, 2023, "we have on record, 2,21,204 veterans," he said.

The IAF Chief shared that it has been a diligent effort to reach out to each and every veteran.

"I am aware there are teething issues, we are taking up these issues constantly with the service providers and the Controller General of Defence Accounts," he said.

In his address, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari also shared some data regarding SPARSH and other initiatives.

The System for Pension Administration (Raksha) or SPARSH is a web-based system for processing pension claims and crediting the pension directly into bank accounts of defence pensioners without any external intermediary.

"In the year gone by, 1.85 lakh legacy pensioners have been migrated onto SPARSH," the IAF Chief said.

The Navy Chief, in his address, underlined the contribution made by the veterans to the armed forces.

"I can say with conviction that our armed forces of today are a product of the visionary leadership, unflinching efforts and selfless service of our veterans. I would like to assure each and every one of you that we will leave no water uncharted in carrying forward this legacy," Admiral Kumar said.

So, towards that end, the Navy's efforts have been focused on being a combat-ready, credible, cohesive and future-proof force, he said.

"While pursuing our many operational commitments, the Bharatiya Nav Sena remains committed to ensuring the welfare of our ex-servicemen," the Navy Chief added.

The Navy has been following a multi-pronged approach of proactive outreach, positive interaction, and persistent communication to address various issues faced by our veteran community, Admiral Kumar said.

He noted that the outreach programme has been expanded.

"We are aware that the serving Navy is a transit Navy, while the veteran Navy is a permanent Navy, that is where finally all of us will reach," the Navy Chief said.

The Indian Navy is privileged to have the continuing benefit of "your experience and wisdom", and it looks forward to "your invaluable guidance, unstinted support and forthright suggestions to help us better address issues faced by both the services as well as the veteran community," he added.

Wreath-laying ceremonies and veterans' rallies were being organised in Srinagar, Pathankot, Delhi, Kanpur, Alwar, Jodhpur, Guwahati, Mumbai, Secunderabad, Kochi and several other places to mark the day, the Defence Ministry said in a statement later in the day.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh led the celebrations by addressing a veterans' rally at the Air Force Station in Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, it said.

Around 1,000 ex-servicemen attended the event. He interacted with them and expressed heartfelt gratitude to them for their self-less service to the motherland.

Singh emphasised that the veterans hold a special place in the heart of every Indian.

'We for Veterans' anthem was played at various public places as an ode to the veteran community, the statement said.

The celebrations also witnessed the release of maiden 'SAGAR SAMVAD' magazine, a yearly journal published by the Directorate of Ex-Servicemen Affairs of the Indian Navy covering information, policies and various topics of interest for the veterans.

The Indian Air Force and the Indian Army also released the 'VAYU SAMVEDNA' and 'SAMMAN' magazines respectively, it added.

Armed Forces Veterans' Day is celebrated on January 14 every year to recognise the service rendered by the first Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal K M Cariappa, who retired on this day in 1953.

The day was first celebrated in 2016 and it is commemorated every year since then by hosting such interactive events in the honour of the ex-servicemen, the statement said.

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