Dressed in heavy mountain gear, Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with Army and ITBP personnel in the icy terrain near the India-China border, saying their devotion to duty in the remote icy heights is enabling the strength of the nation.

Greeting the jawans in the Harshil cantonment area, Modi said they, through their commitment and discipline, are securing the future and the dreams of 125 crore Indians and helping spread a sense of security and fearlessness among the people.

Modi said that Diwali is the festival of lights, and it spreads the light of goodness and dispels fear.

Modi recalled that he has been visiting soldiers on Diwali ever since he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He also spoke of his interactions with the jawans of the ITBP, years ago when he was part of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

Modi said India was taking great strides forward in the defence sector. He spoke of various measures being taken for the welfare of ex-servicemen, including implementation of ‘one rank, one pension’ (OROP).

Modi said that the Indian armed forces earned admiration and appreciation across the world in UN peacekeeping operations.

Modi offered sweets to the jawans. He also interacted with people from nearby areas who had gathered to greet him on Diwali.

Harshil is a cantonment area situated at a height of 7,860 feet close to the India-China border in Uttarkashi district.

Modi later reached Kedarnath to offer prayers and review the progress of reconstruction projects at Kedarpuri.

Kedarpuri, the township situated close to the Himalayan shrine, had borne the brunt of the catastrophic floods of 2013, which killed thousands of people.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said Modi extensively walked around the entire temple complex, where significant reconstruction works were in progress. He was briefed by senior officials about the progress of the works. Modi interacted briefly with several people present at the temple complex.

The Kedarnath Temple complex is currently the focus of a major development and reconstruction effort, following the severe flood and landslide in 2013.

The last time Modi had been to Kedarnath was in October 2017, just before the portals of the Himalayan shrine close for the winters.

After becoming the prime minister in 2014, Modi had spent his Diwali at Siachen with jawans.

In 2015, he had visited the Punjab border on Diwali. His visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The next year, Modi was in Himachal Pradesh where he spent time with ITBP personnel at an outpost.

Modi had spent his fourth Diwali as prime minister with soldiers in Gurez in Jammu and Kashmir last year.