Veiled warning to China, Pakistan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday issued a veiled warning to China and Pakistan saying whoever challenged the country’s sovereignty got a befitting reply as he made a push for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ with a ‘Make for World’ call and announced a National Digital Health Mission.

In his Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort for the seventh consecutive time, Modi, 69, also said mass production of vaccine for COVID-19 will begin in India once scientists give their nod and a roadmap was ready to ensure it reaches everyone in the country in the shortest possible time. Three vaccine candidates are in different stages of trials in the country, he added.

The annual Independence Day event at the main venue Red Fort which traditionally witnessed a bustling crowd was scaled down this year in keeping with prescribed COVID-19 safety protocols that also included social distancing for the visitors including ministers and diplomats.

During his 86-minute address on the country’s 74th Independence Day, Modi also underscored his government’s commitment to holding assembly polls in centrally-administered Jammu and Kashmir after the ongoing delimitation exercise is over, and stated a new era of development has begun in the union territory after Article 370 was scrapped a year ago.

Modi, who was dressed in his customary ‘kurta pyjama’ and sported a saffron and cream ‘safa’, said the armed forces have given a befitting reply to those challenging the country’s sovereignty “from LoC to LAC”, in a veiled reference to Pakistan and China. “From LoC (Line of Control) to LAC (Line of Actual Control), anyone who casts an eye on the sovereignty of the country, the armed forces have responded in the language they understand,” Modi said.

“Whether it is terrorism or expansionism, India is fighting both with determination.”

Modi’s comments came amid India’s bitter border row with China along the LAC in eastern Ladakh and rise in incidents of ceasefire violations along the LoC with Pakistan in the last few months.

Referring to the Galwan Valley clashes in eastern Ladakh in June, the prime minister said respect for India’s sovereignty is supreme and the world has seen in Ladakh what its brave jawans can do to maintain this resolve.

“I salute all those brave soldiers from the Red Fort,” Modi said, adding the whole country is united in protecting the sovereignty of the country. Twenty Indian army personnel were killed during the clashes on June 15. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.

Besides the announcement of the launch of a national digital health mission, Modi said all the six lakh villages in the country will be connected with optical fibres in 1,000 days to improve digital connectivity for the rural masses.

The prime minister dwelt at length on his ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) campaign as he gave a call for reducing imports and pushing exports of finished products in place of raw material, saying the country will have to move forward with the mantra of ‘Make in India’ as well as ‘Make for World’.

‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ is no longer merely a word but has become a mantra and captured people’s imagination, he said.

Unveiling his vision, the prime minister said the goal is to make India a global manufacturing hub while a Rs 110 lakh crore pipeline of national infrastructure projects is being created to boost the economy and create jobs.

India received record foreign investment in the last fiscal when FDI rose 18 per cent, he said, adding companies were looking to invest in the nation even during the corona crisis.

“How long can the raw material be sent out of our country and finished products imported?” he asked. “Aatmanirbhar Bharat is not only about cutting imports but also raising our capacity, creativity and skills.”

“Today world’s biggest companies are looking at India,” he said. “Now along with ‘Make in India’, we will have to move ahead with the mantra of ‘Make for World’.”

The prime minister cited the example of India during the coronavirus crisis becoming an export surplus nation in the manufacturing of N-95 face masks, PPE kits and ventilators.

Hailing the ‘corona warriors’, including doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and sanitation workers who have been continuously fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the country will achieve victory over coronavirus with the resolve of its over 130 crore citizens.

Asia’s third-largest economy’s main focus will be the creation of a pipeline of national infrastructure projects worth more than Rs 110 lakh crore, Modi said. “About 7,000 projects in different sectors have been identified. This will be a type of infrastructure revolution.”

Stating that working in silos in the infrastructure space has ended, he said a large scheme to connect the country through a multi-modal connectivity infrastructure is ready.

The National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) project will play a crucial role in pulling the country out of the impact of COVID-19, he said.

On digital connectivity for rural masses, Modi said only five dozen village panchayats were connected with optical fibre in 2014. This has increased to 1.5 lakh in the last five years.

Making a mention of the ground-breaking ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5, Modi said the centuries-old issue has been resolved peacefully.