India’s PM loses his marbles

Tensions between South Asian neighbours India and Pakistan rose a few notches Monday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched on the situation in Balochistan and Gilgit regions in his Independence Day speech.

“I want to speak a bit about the people in Balochistan, Gilgit, Baltistan, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” Modi said from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Modi had said at a meeting Friday: “The time has come for Pakistan to answer the world, on atrocities against people in Balochistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir.”

He mentions Balochistan, GB, AJK in speech In an unprecedented mention of another country’s territory in an Independence Day speech, Modi said Monday: “The world is watching. People of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me a lot in the past few days.”

“It is a moment of pride that these people have looked out to India for support,” Modi added.

The Indian prime minister’s reference to happenings in Pakistan in an Independence Day speech is being seen as a reaction to comments by Pakistani leaders supporting demands for freedom in India-administered Kashmir.

The nuclear-capable South Asian neighbours have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed Kashmir region which is divided into two parts, one administered by India and the other by Pakistan.

The two sides often accuse each other of supporting rebels in each other’s territories.

Modi Monday declared that the country will not bow before terrorism even as he claimed that people of Balochistan and AJK have thanked him for raising issue of atrocities against them.

In a 90-minute address Modi made no reference to the situation in Indian held Kashmir valley which has been rocked by violence after the killing of Burhan Wani, but accused Pakistan of glorifying terrorists and celebrating killings in India.

This was an obvious reference to Wani who has been hailed as a martyr by Pakistan, which was not directly named by him.

Modi came out openly in support of “freedom” for Balochistan and “Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK)”. “I want to speak a bit about the people in Balochistan, Gilgit, Baltistan, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” he said in his 70th Independence Day speech from the Red Fort.

“The world is watching. People of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me a lot in the past few days,” Modi said while adding “I am grateful to them.”

He said the way people from these Pakistani regions “wished me well, gives me great joy”. Modi asked the international community to judge the behaviour of India and Pakistan in the context of terror attacks in each other’s country, but avoided the reference of Indian occupation forces atrocities in held Kashmir.

“When children were killed in terror attack on a school in Peshawar (about two years back), there were tears in our Parliament. Indian children were traumatised.

This is the example of our humanity. But look at the other side where terrorism is glorified,” Modi said. Referring to the eulogising of Burhan Wani in Pakistan, he questioned what kind of policy is the one which celebrates a “terrorist”.

Narendra Modi made it clear that he has completely re-routed his policy on Pakistan with aggressive comments referring to Pakistan’s “human rights abuses” in its large province of Balochistan as well as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

“What kind of life is this, inspired by terrorism? What kind of government set-up 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, gunmen attacked a police station in Indian-held Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinagar, killing an officer and wounding 10 police and paramilitary troops. Two militants were killed in the ensuing shootout, police said.

The army also claimed it had foiled an infiltration attempt from Pakistan into North Kashmir, killing three militants. Modi met national party leaders on Friday to seek ways to end the worst unrest in Kashmir since 2010.

Analysts said the sharp exchange marked an escalation in the long-running rivalry between the countries. Modi also referred to Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, through which some of a $46 billion, Chinese-backed trade corridor is expected to run, extending south through Baluchistan to the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.

“Modi’s statement is meant as much for Beijing as for Islamabad,” journalist Prashant Jha wrote in an opinion piece for Indian newspaper Hindustan Times.

Modi’s remarks directed at Pakistan overshadowed comments in his Independence Day address in which he touted his government’s achievements in rural electrification, financial inclusion and health provision.

He strongly backed the fight against inflation, endorsing a 4 percent target, within a range of 2 percentage points either way, agreed with Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.

He barely mentioned his government’s latest, and arguably most significant reform: the passage of a key amendment that clears the way for the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax (GST) next year.

He said only that the GST would “give strength” to the economy, while thanking opposition parties that, after a drawn-out battle, had come on board to pass the amendment unanimously through both houses of parliament. -APP