In his customary address to the armed forces personnel broadcast over All India Radio on the eve of Independence Day, Antony said the government is 'trying to further strengthen our capabilities in the northern sector'.
"All of you would be aware that the security situation across the globe in general, and the Indian sub-continent in particular, is not very encouraging. We are trying to further strengthen our capabilities in the northern sector. We are attaching top priority to the strengthening of the infrastructure in this sector by building and upgrading border roads, strategic bridges and airfields," said Antony.
"We are enhancing other capabilities along the land and sea borders. Steps are also being taken to modernise the Army's infantry and artillery units, so that they can easily work in a seamless and net-centric environment," he added.
Antony said of late, India has been facing threat to its sovereignty from the long sea-frontiers, than from anywhere else.
"Keeping this in view, our Government has taken elaborate measures to strengthen our coastal security apparatus by plugging loopholes in sea-patrolling and air defence mechanism. The Government has also sanctioned a massive modernisation programme for the Indian Navy," said Antony.
"India's first indigenous aircraft carrier has just been launched in Kochi and in a few years, it will play a major role in enhancing the Navy's blue water capability," he added.
Antony said the Indian Air Force has always strengthened the nation's defence.
"The Indian Air Force has not only guarded our skies, but has served the nation well during peacetime, in conflict-like situations and natural calamities alike. It has also rendered valuable service in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. We are taking steps towards the modernisation of the Indian Air Force and to provide the best training skills to our Air Warriors," said Antony.
"As a part of the plan of improving the maritime security infrastructure, the Indian Coastal Guard is steadily increasing its surface platforms, as well as establishments/stations. Within the last year, commissioning of new Coast Guard stations is very encouraging. As far the air front is concerned, the Government has taken timely measures to strengthen its operational potential," he added.
The Defence Minister said an independent and self-respecting country like India cannot afford to remain dependent on imports for meeting the needs of its weapon systems and equipment.
"The development of indigenous systems through sustained research and development is essential to enjoy freedom from external controls and embargos," he added.
Antony congratulated the scientists and technologists of DRDO and other defence-related institutions for making progress in equipping the Armed Forces with the state-of-the-art weapons and equipment, developed and produced indigenously.
"Our efforts have always been to keep the interests of our Armed Forces personnel uppermost in our mind. I assure you that we will never waver in this commitment to provide the best equipment and facilities for your all-round welfare," he said.
The Defence Minister extended his heartiest congratulations and best wishes to all serving Armed Forces personnel, ex-servicemen and all their family members on the eve of India's 67th Independence Day.
"As I speak to you, my thoughts are with the near and dear ones of all those brave hearts who laid down their lives for the security of the nation and in the line of duty while involved in rescue and relief operations. It is your round-the-clock vigil with dedication, commitment and sacrifice, defying all odds, that we are able to protect our freedom and territorial integrity," he said.
Antony also lauded the armed forces personnel for their splendid job in rescue and relief operations in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
"This June, the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh were devastated by unprecedented flashfloods and landslides, affecting lakhs of people. The Armed Forces were called in for providing much-needed succour at a crucial hour. Our Armed Forces Personnel did a splendid job by undertaking non-stop rescue and relief operations and saved several precious lives. The entire nation is proud of you and salutes you for doing this valiant job, even at the cost of losing some brave hearts," said Antony.
"I pay my humble tributes to all those who have laid down their lives in service of the nation. The pressure of living away from your families makes your job all the more tough. The nation gratefully remembers the selfless sacrifice and services of all our Jawans and officers, who guard our land, sea and air borders," he added.
Antony further said terrorism has always been and continues to be one of the major challenges that we confront.
"Dear jawans, being the first in the line of defence, you are faced with these challenges each and every moment. I have no doubt that all of you will continue to protect and uphold the honour and defence of our motherland," said Antony.
"I have visited land, air and sea frontiers at different times. I have seen at first hand the various challenges and dangers that all of you face. Our Government has taken several steps to improve the facilities to mitigate your sufferings to some extent. Besides providing high quality ration to the men and officers of our Armed Forces, we have taken special measures to accelerate the Married Accommodation Project (MAP). This project is now in the final phase. It will ensure nearly two lakh Dwelling Units and will surely address some of the accommodation-related problems that you face," he added.
Antony said the government launched Employees Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) to keep the serving and retired Jawans in the best of health.
"The scheme makes available the best medical treatment in some of the best approved hospitals/clinics spread throughout the country on a cashless basis. This facility has now been widened further and 426 polyclinics have been established in the country to extend quality and affordable health care facilities to our soldiers. We will continue to take keen interest in improving the living conditions and putting in place more mechanisms to address your grievances," said Antony.
"We are equally conscious of the all-round welfare of our Ex-Servicemen, whose contribution to nation-building is immense," he added.
--ANI (Posted on 15-08-2013)