Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a strong attack on Pakistan on Saturday, warning that India will not forget the sacrifices of the 18 soldiers who were killed in the terrorist strike at the Army camp in Uri last Sunday.
At the same time, he reached out to the people of Pakistan — differentiating between them and their government, which he said was the sole exporter of terror across the globe. Modi spoke directly to Pakistanis, telling them to ask their rulers why, at a time India was exporting software to the entire world, Pakistan was bent on exporting terrorism.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the nationwide “aakrosh” in the wake of Uri, but framed the conflict in terms of a long haul — reminding both his audience and Pakistan that while India would not forget the loss of 18 jawans, Indian forces had killed over 110 terrorists while foiling 17 attempted attacks, the most in recent years.
The confidence and faith of 1.25 billion Indians was what fired the soldier and gave him strength, the PM said.
Modi challenged Pakistan to go to war against poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and infant mortality instead, saying “let’s see who wins those wars”, India or Pakistan. “I want to say that India is a ready for a war… India is a ready for a war on poverty. Let both countries fight to see who would eradicate poverty first… I want to tell the youth of Pakistan, let’s have a war on ending unemployment… I want to call out to the children in Pakistan, let’s declare war on illiteracy. Let’s see who wins. Let’s declare war on infant mortality and maternal deaths,” he said.
Modi’s first public speech since the Uri attacks, at Kozhikode beach at the beginning of the BJP’s National Council meeting, struck a balance between responding to belligerent sections within his support base who have been seeking visible action against Pakistan, and positioning the PM as the statesman who saw the India Story as being bigger and brighter than the India-Pak tensions story.
At the same time, he repeatedly praised the armed forces, lauding their sacrifice and boosting their morale.
“Sacrifice of our 18 jawans will not go in vain,” he said. “Let the terrorists make no mistake, India will never forget the Uri attack… We will leave no stone unturned to isolate Pakistan in the world.”
“India never has, and never will, bow to terror, it will defeat terror,” he declared. “Our soldiers have defended the country, fighting and protecting the citizens, we are proud of their sacrifces.”
“There is one nation in Asia whose aim is to ensure that the 21st century does not become Asia’s century, and that it remains associated with terrorism,” Modi said, referring to Pakistan. “This one country exports terrorism to other countries. That country wants South Asia’s history to be splattered with blood, killings and terror… Whenever a terror attack takes place, only one country is blamed. Whenever we hear about terror strikes, news follows that either the terrorist went from there or, like Osama bin Laden, they settled there afterward.”
The PM, who referred to human rights violations in Balochistan in his Independence Day speech, returned to the theme on Saturday. “I want to address the people of Pakistan today,” he said. “Your rulers are misleading you by singing songs on Kashmir and reading out scripts written by terrorists on Kashmir. You should ask your leaders why India, which was created along with Pakistan, exports software and Pakistan exports terror… You should ask them why they were not able to handle East Pakistan, and why they cannot handle PoK, Gilgit, Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhunistan…?”
A day would come, the Prime Minister said, when the people of Pakistan will go against its own country to fight against terrorism. New Delhi, Modi said, would continue to expose Pakistan.
Modi, who began his speech by greeting people in Malayalam, also appreciated the party workers in Kerala and assured them that their sacrifices and efforts would not go waste. Pointing out that the workers of the Jana Sangh, BJP’s forerunner, and the BJP have been committed to the ideology of Deendayal Upadhyay without seeing power on the horizon, he said, “BJP will be a reason for change in Kerala.” The crowd cheered, which greeted the Prime Minister in an unusual way, by raising their mobiles with their flashlights on.
Reiterating his government’s commitment to the uplift of the poor, Modi, who is to launch the birth centenary celebrations of Deendayal Upadhyay here on Sunday, said the pledge for the 21st century should be freedom from poverty, injustice, unemployment, corruption and atrocities on women.