Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi gave a 90 plus minute long speech on Indian Independence Day that made clear the government’s stance on violence and terrorism with special relation to Pakistan, drawing reactions from within the country and outside.
Addressing the nation from the Red Fort in the Indian capital, New Delhi, Narendra Modi began his speech highlighting his personal and political journey since he was elected as Prime minister of India in 2014, elucidating on the work done, according to him, under his leadership and his achievements, which were put under scanner later by the media and other political figures.
He called attention to the necessity of skill development, which is an important issue for a country whose population in majority is the youth. The importance of digital infrastructure and reform and cleanliness and sanitation were also brought to the fore.
He urged citizens for social reform and touched upon the topics that plague India today – high incidence of rape, casteism, communalism and gender inequality. “Unity in diversity, this is our strength. Violence has no place in our society” Modi said said.
The most crucial moment of his speech has come to be when he referred to Pakistan’s human rights violation and policy failures in Balochistan (a province in Pakistan that reportedly is facing internal issues of separatism and militancy) and the area referred to as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Becoming the first Indian PM on Independence Day to bring up the areas within Pakistan in unrest, Modi said in reference to an Indian connection with Balochistan “I want to heartily thank the people of Balochistan, people of Gilgit, people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for having an expression of thankfulness.”
Kashmir has been a contentious issue for both nations and Modi has taken a strong stance on this issue by bringing up Pakistan’s alleged involvement in domestic and international terrorism. Modi was sharply critical of the general atmosphere that has grown around the issue of militancy, particularly after the death of separatist Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani this July 8, and support for calls for autonomy in Kashmir. He criticised Pakistan: “When innocent people are killed in terrorist attacks, they celebrate… what type of terrorism-inspired life is it, what type are these creations of terrorism-inspired governments?”
Pakistan talks about a diversion
His stance has drawn criticism from Pakistan. As a response, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, asserted that Modi was diverting world attention from what he described as a “grim tragedy” taking place in Kashmir over the past five weeks. He called for resolution on the Kashmir issue and need for efforts for the same by both nations.
Remarks by Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest English daily, added by stating Modi’s language seemed “aggressive”; and his comments came a breach of “diplomatic norms”. It added that the Indian PM’s remarks will most likely be interpreted by Pakistan as a threat.
Within India, an opposition party Congress’ leader Kapil Sibal came out to term the focus by Modi on “vague matters” such as this unnecessary. Salman Khurshid, Former External Affairs Minister of India, said the tone of the speech came as a departure from India’s traditional foreign policy of Panccshsheel or five principles of peaceful coexistence. He also suggested that the particular mention of Balochistan may ruin the Indian government’s case on what is referred to as “Pakistan occupied Kashmir” by most Indians.
What lies ahead for India is a very tricky path with Pakistan. The need to address demands from within the nation as well as respect for relations with its neighbour that had once been a part of its own self comes as the need of the hour for India. Modi’s speech and the consequent reaction have brought to the surface the urgent and yet unfulfilled one need for meaningful dialogue between the two nations to secure peace in the South East Asian region.