NEW DELHI: Defence Minister A K Antony and Army Chief Gen V K Singh today paid tributes and laid wreaths at the cemetery of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw on his 98th birth anniversary.
Paying tributes to him, Antony said he will be an inspiration to generations of armed forces. The Defence Minister said the people and the country will never forget his contribution, particularly the victorious 1971 Indo-Pakistan war that led to the liberation of Bangladesh.
Earlier, Antony and Gen Singh laid wreaths on the new gravestone for the late Field Marshal and attended a prayer and military memorial service which was attended by LT Gen Bikram Singh, GOC-in-chief Eastern command and Army Chief-Designate, and other top-ranking army officials.
Mankeshaw's two daughters were also present. The wreath laying ceremony, comprised traditional presentation of arms by special guards of the Madras Regimental Centre and sounding of the last post by the band after observance of a two-minute of silence.
Antony, however, refused to take any political questions when reporters approached him on the defence procurement issue. "This is not the occasion to speak much (about it)," Antony said. General Singh also declined to take questions from reporters.
When asked about request by people to confer Bharat Ratna on Manekshaw, Antony said, "I am not the authority to decide about that.Government will take a decision." On his retirement in January 1973, Manekshaw settled down in Coonoor, the twin civilian town of Wellington Cantonment, where he had served as commandant of the Defences Services Staff College.
He passed away at the age of 94 in 2008 and was laid to rest in the nearby Parsee Zoroastrian Cemetery in Ooty. Manekshaw was appointed Field Marshal in 1973 by Indira Gandhi. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1968 and after the 1971 war, the Padma Vibhushan.