Rangapahar (Nagaland), Feb 18 (IANS) Concerned over China's military modernisation and infrastructure build-up along the border, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Friday asked the army to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye on even the smallest developments in and around India's neighbourhood.
Addressing officers and troops at the 3 Corps headquarters here, he also conceded that corruption had dented the image of the army and asked it to ensure that its 'sense of pride and dignity' is 'maintained at all times'.
Antony, who arrived here Friday on a two-day visit to review the security scenario in the region, said that though maintaining peace and tranquility along the border was crucial, the armed forces had to ensure operational preparedness of the highest level.
Antony also urged the military personnel to establish a healthy relationship with the local populace, to win their hearts and minds and to project the army in a positive light.
Conceding that some recent instances of corruption in high places in the army had harmed to its credibility and image, the defence minister described honesty and loyalty as the basic traits of a soldier.
He urged army personnel to ensure that the sense of pride and dignity of the force was maintained at all times.
'I want to emphasise one issue to each one of you. A soldier is the pride of the nation. Honesty and loyalty are the basic traits of a soldier. Some recent instances of corruption in high places in the army have brought some harm to its credibility and image,' he said.
'All of you must perform duties with sincerity and ensure that the sense of pride and dignity of the army is maintained at all times. We will take very strict action whenever any case of corruption comes up or is brought to our notice,' he added.
At an interaction with the soldiers, Antony agreed to a suggestion from them that they be given new boots after every 12 months instead of the existing 26 months.
Antony instructed the defence ministry officials to implement the suggestion immediately.
The soldiers also requested Antony for a chartered air service to Delhi.
The army chief, Gen V.K. Singh, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Eastern Army commander Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh and 3 Corps commander Lt. Gen. N.K. Singh were present on the occasion.
Earlier, on arrival at the 3 Corps headquarters, Antony reviewed the security situation along the border and the progress made in infrastructure development in the region with senior army and ministry officials.