In his seventh consecutive Independence Day address from Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday sent clear messages to both China and Pakistan saying that “our armed forces have replied in the same language to those who dared to challenge our sovereignty either on LoC (Line of Control) or LAC (Line of Actual Control)”.
He did not name China or Pakistan, but the allusion was clear. In a hard-hitting but balanced tone, Modi said, “the world has seen how our jawans displayed bravery in Ladakh. The whole of India stands united and resolute on this issue. I bow to our brave jawans from the ramparts of this historic Red Fort.” The Prime Minister said, India’s fight against “terrorism and expansionism” will continue
Modi also pointed out that “neighbours are not only those countries with whom we share our geographical borders, neighbours are those countries too with whom we connect with our hearts.” He was speaking in the context of how India has forged cordial relations with West Asian and South East Asian countries.
The underlying theme of Modi’s speech was self-reliance (atma nirbharta). He called for reducing imports, promoting indigenous industries, creating a negative list of more than 100 defence products for import, unshackling agriculture to allow farmers to sell their products anywhere, and interlinking of roads with railway and ports with airports through development of multi-modal infrastructure. By mentioning ‘vocal for local’, Modi was appealing to people to buy more and more Indian goods, and shun buying foreign products.
Modi asked: “For how long should we continue to export our raw materials and import finished products? We must proceed towards value addition now…The first condition for self-reliance is self-confidence (atmavishwas).”
The Prime Minister announced framing of a national cyber policy to counter cyberattacks and a national digital health mission to provide health IDs to all Indians. On the Coronavirus pandemic, Modi said, three anti-COVID vaccines are presently being developed in India and are awaiting final approval from scientists. “We have made all preparations for distribution of vaccines and the system is in place. The moment the vaccines are ready, we will provide it to our people.”
Modi’s speech was forward-looking in the sense that projects like National Digital Health Mission and National Cyber Policy will be impacting the lives of all Indians in the coming years. Similarly, he announced work on laying undersea optical fibre link with Lakshadweep Islands, like the one inaugurated recently between Chennai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Communications between mainland India and its islands will now become easier.
Modi has a clear idea of how the Indian farmers need to be freed from all shackles imposed since Independence, so that they can enhance their incomes rapidly. He also spoke of how his government intends to help women, Dalits, tribals and other downtrodden sections of society.
On the whole, the Prime Minister’s speech was optimistic when he mentioned how there has been 18 per cent increase in foreign direct investments in India, how 7,000 new projects in different sectors have been identified to give boost to infrastructure, and how nearly 2 crore households have been provided clean drinking water through taps. Modi’s Independence Day speech was reassuring and it is surely going to invigorate the people who are facing the twin challenges of pandemic and economic recession.
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