New Delhi, Dec 16 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday lit the 'Swarnim Vijay Mashaal' from the eternal flame of the National War Memorial here, marking the beginning of the 50th anniversary year celebrations of India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war that led to the birth of Bangladesh.
On December 16, 1971, then chief of Pakistani forces General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, along with 93,000 troops, surrendered to the joint forces of the Indian Army and the 'Mukti Bahini' after the 13-day war, following which East Pakistan became Bangladesh.
'On Vijay Diwas we recall the unwavering courage of our armed forces that resulted in a decisive victory for our nation in the 1971 war. On this special Vijay Diwas, had the honour of lighting the 'Swarnim Vijay Mashaal' at the National War Memorial,' Modi said in a tweet.
India is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 'Swarnim Vijay Varsh' (golden victory year) through several events across the country and the celebrations will continue for a year.
The prime minister was joined by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the chief of defence staff and tri-service chiefs as he laid a wreath and paid homage to the soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for the country.
Four victory 'mashaal' (flaming torches) are being carried to various parts of the country, including to the villages of the Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra awardees of the 1971 war to relive their bravery and sacrifices.
'Soil from the villages of these awardees and from areas where major battles were fought in 1971 is being brought to the National War Memorial (NWM),' the defence ministry said.
Singh said the sacrifice made by the armed forces during the 1971 war is a source of inspiration for all Indians and the nation will always remember it.
'The nation will always remember the indomitable courage of the Indian armed forces during the 1971 war,' he said at an event organised on the occasion.
The Congress also lauded the armed forces and Indira Gandhi's 'lion-hearted leadership' for India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, with Rahul Gandhi saying it was a time when the neighbouring countries recognised the mettle of the Indian prime minister and feared violating our borders.
'Greetings to the people of the country on the celebrations of India's historic victory over Pakistan in 1971 and salutations to the valour of our armed forces,' he said in a tweet in Hindi.
'This was a time when India's neighbouring countries used to recognise the mettle of the Indian prime minister and feared violating the borders of our country,' the Congress leader added.
A host of leaders and Union ministers too paid tributes to the armed forces personnel who laid down their lives in the war.
'Salute the brave warriors of Indian Armed Forces on #VijayDiwas. Their service and sacrifice during the 1971 War shall always be remembered,' External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in a tweet.
He also extended the 'warmest congratulations' to the government and the people of Bangladesh on 'Bijoy Dibosh'. Bangladesh celebrates December 16 as 'Bijoy Dibosh' (Victory Day).
'Led by Bangabandhu, Bangladesh's historic struggle and sacrifice will continue to be an inspiration for those fighting oppression and genocide,' he said.
The Army also paid glowing tributes to its fallen heroes.
'We remember the bravery of the brave soldiers who wrote a new valor in the 1971 war. A tribute to the brave sons who made supreme sacrifice for the motherland in the 1971 war,' it said in a tweet.
Various commemorative events are being conducted pan-India wherein war veterans will be felicitated. Band displays, seminars, exhibitions, equipment displays, film festivals, conclaves and adventure activities will also be held. PTI KR DSP ASK MPB RC