August 15, 2016 – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took aim at supporters of “terrorism” in his Independence Day speech on Monday, ratcheting up criticism of Pakistan while avoiding direct mention of month-long protests in Indian-ruled 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, the arch-rival also born out of independence from Britain and partition, that left the strongest impression in a speech that otherwise skirted foreign affairs and focussed on his government’s own 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.”
As Modi spoke, two gunmen attacked a police station in Indian-ruled Kashmir, wounding six reservists. The army also said it had foiled an attempt to infiltrate two militants from Pakistan into North Kashmir, killing both.
Kashmir has witnessed violent protests since a July 8 encounter in which the security forces eliminated a commander of Pakistan-based Islamic militant group Hizbul Mujahideen. At least 54 people have been killed and thousands hurt in clashes with the security forces.
Modi met national party leaders on Friday to seek ways to end the worst unrest in Kashmir since 2010.
Both India and Pakistan rule Kashmir in part but claim it in full. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars since independence 69 years ago over the Muslim-majority region where the Line of Control, or de facto border, still runs roughly where the guns fell silent in 1948.