Ex-defence minister KC Pant dead

India's former defence minister and Planning Commission deputy chairman Krishna Chandra Pant died Thursday. He was 81.

On hearing about "the sad passing away" of Pant, Defence Minister A.K. Antony expressed "profound grief" and hailed him for steering the ministry at one of the most critical junctures of history when Indian forces were deployed in strife-torn Sri Lanka on a peacekeeping mission.

Pant was India's defence minister between 1987 and 1989, when the Congress party was in power under then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

"The contribution of Pant will be fondly remembered by the countrymen. Pant steered the ministry at one of the most critical junctures of history as the Indian Peace Keeping Force was deployed in Sri Lanka as a stepping stone to the tortuous journey for peace in the island nation," Antony said in his message.

"The Indian troops were also deployed at short notice in the Maldives to abort a coup attempt, in a clear manifestation of our commitment to the promotion of peace and stability in south Asian region," he recalled.

Antony also noted that Pant bolstered the Indian armed forces in a big way with the acquisition of the country's flagship aircraft carrier INS Viraat, the erstwhile HMS Hermes of the British Royal Navy, and Russian-origin MiG-29 combat aircraft among many other acquisitions during his tenure as the defence minister.

He was also instrumental in the setting up of the first Coast Guard Air Station at Daman, Antony said, adding: "May his soul rest in peace."

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