In a strong message to Pakistan ahead of his first bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army along the Line of Control last year did not elicit any adverse response from the international community and that terrorists have “explained terrorism” to the entire world. And in jest, he said those who suffered from the surgical strikes had a different story to tell.
He also mentioned the case of the recently rescued Indian woman, Uzma, in Pakistan. But he did raise eyebrows when he linked her religion to her decision to travel to Pakistan.
“You would have heard that an Indian girl went to Malaysia, met someone there. She went from India to Pakistan. She carried dreams with her but her life was ruined there. She is a Muslim. She thought if I go to Pakistan, my life will be made. But she landed in trouble. Then she decided she had to get to the Indian embassy there to save herself,” Modi said.
(“Abhi aapne dekha hoga, Bharat ki ek bachchi Malaysia mein gayi thi, kisi ke parichay mein aayi. Bharat se Pakistan chali gayi. Bahut sapne lekar ke gayi thi. Lekin wahan pe uski zindagi barbad ho gayi. Musalman bachchi thi. Usko laga Pakistan jaaongi, meri zindagi bahut khush ho jayegi. Phans gayi. Tab usne man mein tai kiya ki mauka dekh kar Pakistan ke andar jo Hindustan ki embassy hai wahan pahunch jaaongi, meri zindagi surakshit ho jayegi.”)
Delhi-based Uzma was rescued in Pakistan by the Indian High Commission there after she complained of torture and harassment by her husband’s family.
Modi made these comments at an Indian community event in Washington DC at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Unlike his previous such event at the Madison Square Garden, there were no banners, posters, drums or any sign of festivity outside the venue. Even inside the venue, chants of “Modi, Modi” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” were not as raucous.
“This is Trump’s America, we need to be cautious and low-key,” one of the organisers said. Vijai Chauthaiwale, who heads a group called the Overseas Friends of BJP, said about 5,000 people registered to attend the event.
During his over 45-minute speech, Modi drew the loudest response when he spoke on the surgical strikes conducted after the Uri attack last September.
“When India talked of terrorism 20 years back, many in the world said it was a law and order problem and didn’t understand it. Now terrorists have explained terrorism to them, so we don’t have to,” Modi said.
He said India succeeded in telling the world about the need to uproot the menace of terrorism. “When India conducted surgical strikes, the world experienced our power and realised that India practices restraint but can show power when needed,” he said.
“The world did not and cannot stop us. We have succeeded in conveying to the world the deleterious effects of terrorism on India.”
“The entire world could have raised many questions and pointed fingers at us for the surgical strike. But not a single country questioned India’s surgical strike against terrorist launch pads in Pakistan. For those who suffered (Pakistan) because of this, it is a different thing,” he said.
Modi also took a swipe at China when he said that India believes in following the world order. “We are bound by international laws. We believe in the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family). This is our character. We do not want to disrupt the global order. Following international norms and law to ensure that sovereignty, security and peace is maintained, we are capable of taking very stern action.”
He said his government has remained untainted in the last three years. “The reasons governments have been defeated in India are things like corruption and cheating. People of India do not like corruption. I can say humbly today that there has not been a single taint on us during our three years of performance.”
Showering praise on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Ministry of External Affairs for becoming “pro-people”, he said that he gets letters praising the embassies everyday. He said that the MEA has shown how to use the social media to resolve people’s grievances. The earlier image of an Indian diplomat, he said, was someone who was in “coat, pant, tie” and not “engaged with people”.
“If somebody in some corner of the world is in distress and they tweet, within 15 minutes, Sushma Swaraj responds and the government takes action within 24 hours,” he said.
Before the event began, audio-visual films highlighted achievements like the Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation, One-Rank-One-Pay, surgical strikes, missiles and black money. A musical video on Namami Ganga was also aired.