A DAY after India dismissed Pakistan’s claims that it was trying to sabotage talks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said although the country staunchly believes in peace and is committed to taking it forward, it cannot be “at the cost of compromising our self-respect and the sovereignty of our nation”. Speaking at his monthly radio address Mann ki Baat, the PM also warned that the country’s soldiers would “give a befitting reply” to anyone attempting “to destroy the atmosphere of peace and progress”.
With his government observing the second anniversary of the 2016 ‘surgical strikes’, on terror bases on Pakistan soil, as ‘Parakram Parv’, Modi said, “It has now been decided that our soldiers will give a befitting reply to whosoever makes an attempt to destroy the atmosphere of peace and progress in our nation. We staunchly believe in peace, we are committed to taking it forward, but not at the cost of compromising our self-respect and the sovereignty of our nation. India has always been resolutely committed to peace.”
Events like Parakram Parv would remind the youth of the glorious heritage of the Army, the PM said. “It also inspires us to maintain the unity and integrity of the country.”
Pointing out that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is completing its 25th year, Modi said society needs to understand “the importance of human rights and inculcate them into practice”. “This is the very basis of ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’ (his government’s slogan),” he said, adding that the late Atal Bihari Vajayee had said that human rights were “not an alien concept for us”.
“The NHRC has instilled widespread awareness of human rights and played an important role in preventing their misuse. In its journey of 25 years, it has created an atmosphere of hope and confidence in countrymen. For a healthy society, and for lofty democratic values, I feel it is a very hope-inspiring event.”
Modi’s warning to Pakistan came a day after External Affairs Minister’s Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the UN General Assembly accusing Pakistan of being “an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity”. Swaraj also justified the decision to call off a recent meeting she was to have with her Pakistani counterpart, calling the latter’s claims that India was trying to sabotage the talks as a “lie”.
Modi pointed out that India is one of the largest contributors of personnel to various United Nations Peace Keeping Forces. “For decades, our brave soldiers wearing blue helmets have played a stellar role in ensuring maintenance of world peace,” he said. “We have never eyed someone else’s territory maliciously. This in itself is our commitment and dedication to peace.”
Modi also recalled the contribution of the IAF in transporting men and material to Srinagar in 1947, when Pakistani attackers had tried to capture Jammu and Kashmir, and went on to hail the force’s contribution towards gender equality. “Now the Air Force is offering the option of permanent commission to women, besides the Short Service Commission… India can proudly claim that in the Armed Forces, not only ‘man power’ but ‘woman power’ is also contributing equally. Women are already empowered and are getting armed too now,” he said.
The PM praised Navy Commander Abhilash Tomy for his courage after his boat was damaged in a storm while participating in the Golden Globe Race. He called him “a rare example of courage, determination, strength and bravery”. “A few days ago I talked to Abhilash over the telephone after he was rescued and brought safely to ground. I had met Tomy earlier too. Despite having faced such a tough situation, his grit and spirit, his determination to make another similar attempt, are an inspiration for our younger generation. I pray for Tomy’s sound health and I am sure that his courage, bravery and resolve to fight and emerge a winner will inspire our younger generation.”
Reminding that India would be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, the PM said various programmes would be held across the world for two years, with one of Gandhiji’s mantras “still relavant”. “The swelling middle class of the country, its increasing economic power, increasing purchasing power… can we remember revered Bapu for a moment while going out shopping? Can we remember that mantra of Bapu? Can we spare a thought while purchasing anything, as to who in my country will benefit from this purchase? Whose face will sport a smile? Who will be fortunate to get direct or indirect benefit from my purchase? That I will feel much happier if my purchase benefits the poorest of the poor,” Modi said, adding if money spent on buying goods helps those who have made it, it would be a tribute to Gandhi.
He also recalled the contributions of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who shares his birthday with Gandhi.