NEW DELHI (TIP): In what can be viewed as a significantly aggressive shift in India’s foreign policy, PrimeMinister Narendra Modi attacked Pakistan over alleged human rights abuses in Balochistan, Gilgit and “occupied” Kashmir, probably a first ever accusation against Pakistan by an Indian Prime Minister, in his Independence Day address from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort on August 15.
The broadside at Pakistan was the high point of his 94-minute speech and part of the government’s attempts to counter Islamabad’s ploy of raising in international forums alleged human rights abuses by Indian security forces in Kashmir. At least 58 people have died and 2,000 injured in the Valley in a month-long spell of violence sparked by the killing of a militant leader in July.
“I want to specially thank some special people from the Red Fort. In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pak-occupied Kashmir had conveyed good wishes and gratitude to me,” Modi said in his address from the ramparts of the 17th century Red Fort, a tradition started by Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic “tryst with destiny” speech in 1947.
India and Pakistan, both born out of independence from Britain, celebrated their 70th Independence Day a day apart.
“I have never seen these lands or met them. But when they congratulate (the) Indian Prime Minister, they congratulate our 1.25 crore people. And this is why I am grateful from the bottom of my heart to the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pak-occupied Kashmir.”
In a sharp retort, Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said Modi was “only trying to divert world attention from the grim tragedy that has been unfolding in the Indian-occupied Kashmir over the past five weeks”.
Modi did not mention Kashmir where many areas are still under curfew. India has accused the western neighbor of stoking unrest in the Valley.
During an all-party meeting on Kashmir last week Modi said the time has come to expose Islamabad’s brutalities on its own people in the three restive areas where Pakistan’s security forces are accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings in crackdowns on dissidents.
“What kind of life is this, inspired by terrorism? What kind of government set-up is it that is inspired by terrorism?” asked Modi.
“The world will know about it and that’s sufficient for me,” said Modi, the first Indian PM to raise in an Independence Day speech rights abuses by Pakistani security forces in these areas.
He mentioned how India was “devastated” to hear about the killing of students in an army school in Peshawar.
“It brought tears in Parliament and every corner of India. This is our culture of humanity. On the other side, killing of innocents by terrorists are celebrated by a government inspired by terrorism,” said Modi who sported a red, pink and yellow turban.
Modi made another significant departure in his address this Independence Day. Instead of making promises, he dwelt more on the government’s achievements. Also, he emphasized the importance of good governance in realizing objectives.
“There was a time when people were more scared of income tax authorities than police officials, particularly among middle class families. I want to change that,” Modi said on Monday. He also said that while Income Tax refunds used to take time, now people get their refunds in no more than three weeks.
Similarly, Modi said, while it took six to eight months to get a passport, it just takes a couple of weeks now even though around two crore people apply for it annually now compared with around 20,000 earlier.
“We have also connected 70 crore Indians to Aadhaar and social security schemes,” he said in his address.