India’s prime minister Narendra Modi took aim at supporters of “terrorism” in his Independence Day speech on Monday (August 15), ratcheting up criticism of Pakistan while avoiding direct mention of month-long protests in Kashmir.
Modi also pitched a vision of national unity and progress in his third annual address from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Old Delhi that, at 94 minutes, was the longest delivered by the 65-year-old leader.
Yet it was a broadside against Pakistan that left the strongest impression in a speech that otherwise focused on his government’s achievements.
“What kind of life is this, inspired by terrorism? What kind of government setup is it that is inspired by terrorism?” asked Modi, who delivered the open-air address amid a security lockdown in the Indian capital. “The world will know about it and that’s sufficient for me.”
Modi referred to messages of support he had received from people in regions of Pakistan, including the restive province of Baluchistan, drawing a rebuke from Islamabad which accused him of fomenting terrorism there.
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”, Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said in a statement.
Baluchistan’s provincial capital Quetta was the scene of a suicide bombing on August 8 that killed more than 70 people and wounded at least 100 more at a hospital. A Taliban faction and Daesh (Islamic State) both claimed responsibility.
“The root cause of unrest in Kashmir is cross-border terrorism which is being encouraged by our neighbouring country,” Modi said.
“Since the time terrorism has started in Kashmir, so many sophisticated weapons have been seized by our security forces and so many foreign terrorists gunned down. Pakistan can speak a million lies but the world will not accept these.”
As Modi spoke, gunmen attacked a police station in Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar, killing an officer and wounding 10 police and paramilitary troops. Two militants were killed in the ensuing shootout. The army also said it had foiled an infiltration attempt from Pakistan into north Kashmir, killing three militants.
The state’s first woman chief minister Mehbooba Mufti called on India and Pakistan to make the LoC irrelevant to bring peace in the region.
“I appeal to both countries that this line dividing Kashmir should be made irrelevant,” Mufti told a thinly attended gathering at a sports stadium in Srinagar.
She blamed the Indian leadership for the current crisis in Kashmir and appealed to protesting youths to return to their schools and colleges.
Kashmir has witnessed violent protests since a July 8 encounter in which security forces eliminated a commander of Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Hizbul Mujahideen.
As of Monday, at least 54 people had been killed and thousands hurt in clashes with security forces. The next day, security forces shot dead five people and wounded another 20 during protests in the region.
Modi met national party leaders last Friday (12) to seek ways to end the worst unrest in Kashmir since 2010.
In a separate statement, Pakistan on Monday invited India for talks exclusively on the future of Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi has already ruled out such talks.
Modi also referred to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, through which some of a $46 billion (£35.4bn), Chinese-backed trade corridor is expected to run, extending south through Baluchistan to the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.