|By Mahendra Ved||Published: August 2017|
New Delhi. Successive Prime Ministers of India have since the independence highlighted security issues from the ramparts of Delhi’s historic Red Fort while addressing the nation on the Independence Day.
In keeping with that trend often dictated by threats from outside and within, and with tensions along the borders with both China and Pakistan now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on the 71st Independence Day, “security is our priority”.
“It is clear that security of our country is our priority. Internal security is our priority. Be it sea or borders, be it cyber or space, India is capable of tackling every security challenge,” he said.
He did not mention either of the neighbours, though.
He spoke as a military and diplomatic stand-off with China entered the third month. Troops of the two are positioned eyeball-to-eyeball on Doklam Plateau on the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan. While China has issued daily warnings demanding that India withdraw from a disputed position, India, adhering to a 2012 pact, insists that both sides go back where they were on June 15 and begin talks.
The crisis has alarmed the world community as China issues threats of war and military action almost daily but India is standing firm, without responding to the rhetoric.
With Pakistan, there has been no diplomatic dialogue for long as firing incidents occur frequently along the Line of Control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir as do the infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan to India. The annual jostling is on by Pakistan to push as many armed terrorists cross the Line of Control (LOC) before the winter sets in.
For one who is known for his rhetoric especially when speaking in Hindi language, he kept his speech relatively short and direct.
But he did allude to cyberspace attacks on sensitive web sites, on efforts to curb illegal movement of arms and narcotics and of fake currency, (that has particularly been smuggled into India by Pakistan where ISI owns and prints the Indian Rupees).
Modi assured the gathering and the nation that armed forces were deployed to protect the border effectively.
For good measure, Modi also referred to last year’s surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the LoC and said the world has realised the mettle of India’s security forces.
Pakistan has consistently sought to deny that the strikes took place at all, but claimed to have launched one of its own earlier this year.
“Our Army, our bravehearts, every personnel in uniform have shown their capability and grit whenever there was a situation. Our heroes never shied away from sacrifices,” The Prime Minister observed.
He focused on internal security as well, saying the personnel in uniform were always ready to combat any kind of challenges – be it Left-wing extremism, terrorism, infiltration or tackling those trying to foment trouble inside the country.
Due to the efforts of the security forces, particularly in areas under Left-wing extremism, a large number of youths have surrendered and made efforts to come to the mainstream, he pointed out.
He asserted that there will be no soft approach towards terrorism or terrorists and the government is determined to rid the country of this evil menace. He was happy at the support India was receiving in its effort and thanked the world community for it. “We are not alone,” he declared.
“You will be happy to know that we are not alone in our fight against terrorism. So many countries have been actively helping us. If there is hawala (illegal money transfer from abroad) transaction, the world is giving us information, the world is giving us details about movement of terrorists.”
“I want to thank all those countries which are cooperating with India in fighting the menace and this cooperation is giving strength in ensuring overall peace and security,” Modi said.
On militants within the country, Modi nevertheless indicated a softer line and said the government was ready to talk even to them. His government had given an opportunity to them to join the national mainstream.
For instance, he said, “Neither bullets nor brickbats will solve the Kashmir issue, only love will.”
“We have told terrorists ‘you come to the mainstream, you have right to talk inside the country’s democratic system’. Only the mainstream can fill the energy in every one’s life,” he said, ostensibly referring to the militants in Kashmir pursuing a separatist agenda.
“India’s stature in the world is rising. The world is with us in fight against terror. I thank all nations helping us doing so,” he Prime Minister said.
To keep the nation and the world informed of what was happening on the borders and within the country, Modi announced that a website was being launched to give information about security personnel who have contributed significantly towards the country.
He also referred to implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme for defence personnel, something the retired personnel have been asking for long.
“For the last 30, 40 years, the issue of ‘one-rank, one- pension’ was pending. When the government fulfils the demand, when the government heeds to wishes of the armed forces, then their resolve to give sacrifices for the country increases,” he said.