Udhagamandalam (Tamil Nadu), April 3 (IANS) One of India's most celebrated soldiers, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, was remembered on his 98th birth anniversary Tuesday, with Defence Minister A.K. Antony and army chief Gen. V.K. Singh paying rich tributes to the 1971 war hero at a special prayer and commemoration event near here.
Antony and Gen. Singh laid wreaths at the new gravestone of Manekshaw, who died in a military hospital in Wellington near here in June 2008 at the age of 94.
Army chief-designate Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, the present Kolkata-based eastern army commander, too was present on the occasion and laid a wreath.
Mankeshaw's two daughters were present at the event.
Speaking on the occasion, Antony said Manekshaw, fondly called Sam Bahadur, will be an inspiration to generations of armed forces.
The defence minister said the people and the nation will never forget Manekshaw's contribution, particularly the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan following the 1971 India-Pakistan war.
India had captured over 90,000 Pakistani troops as prisoners of war following their surrender in December 1971.
Earlier, Antony, Gen. Singh and Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh attended a special prayer meeting organised by Manekshaw's family and a military memorial service.
After the event, Antony refused to take any questions from the media, saying 'this is not the occasion to speak much.'
However, to a query if Manekshaw will be conferred Bharat Ratna, Antony said: 'I am not the authority to decide about that. The government has to take a decision.'
The army chief to did not interact with the media.
Manekshaw, soon after his retirement from service in 1973, settled down in Coonoor, near here, in the hills of Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. He was laid to rest in 2008 at the Parsi Zoroastrian Cemetery here.
A Military Cross awardee, Manekshaw was the eighth Indian Army chief
Born in April 1914, Manekshaw's military career spanned four decades, through World War II, the three wars of India against Pakistan and the 1962 India-China war.
He became the army chief in 1969 and became the first Indian military officer to be appointed field marshal of the Indian Army, the rank conferred on him in January 1973. He was also conferred the Padma Vibhushan.
Manekshaw was from the 8 Gorkha Rifles and was also the colonel of the regiment.
His regard and fondness for the Gorkha soldier has been immortalised in his popular quote 'If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.'
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