Army chief General Bipin Rawat has said that people should not get stuck in "microscopic identities" but rise together as one, as he exhorted the youth to join the force to feel the idea of India's unity.
"You want to feel the oneness, join the Army, and see how we people, from different backgrounds, live together as Indians. Remember first, we are all Indians. We are proud of that, and the nation must come first. Then we can learn to live together," Rawat said yesterday.
"We are Indians and we don't call ourselves as Bengalis or Assamese or from Arunachal Pradesh," he said.
Rawat was interacting with 27 youths from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, who were in New Delhi as part of a national integration tour.
The students were visiting Delhi for the first time. They also met President Ram Nath Kovind yesterday.
The Army chief, later interacting with reporters, said: "We have to rise above the idea of microscopic identities and embrace ourselves as Indians."
He underlined that development cannot happen if a region is affected with insurgency. He urged the Indian youth to work hard and contribute actively to the nation-building process, by becoming teachers, engineers, and doctors.
"Then go back to your villages and serve them. Assam has many good schools but not enough teachers. If there are hospitals in villages, not enough doctors," he said.
The students presented the Army chief a 'gamocha' -- a traditional Assamese cloth, and a 'xorai' - a traditional offering tray with a stand at the bottom.
Of the 27 youths, 25 are from Assam and the rest from Arunachal Pradesh, an Army official accompanying the group said.
Their tour was flagged off from Joypur, Assam, on December 26.
"We first reached Delhi by train and after that we went to Jaipur and Agra for sightseeing. In Jaipur, we saw the Hawa Mahal, Albert Hall and Amer Fort, and in Agra we saw the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.
"In Delhi, we visited the Red Fort, Qutub Minar, India Gate, Birla Mandir and National Science Centre. Yesterday, the traffic was so heavy, we were stuck for hours near India Gate," the official said.
The national integration tour is organised as part of the Army's outreach programme to foster the "spirit of the nation first".