India has neither coveted any territory nor attacked any country, but its men have made supreme sacrifices for the national cause and freedom of others, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.
His remarks came in the backdrop of escalating India-Pakistan tension after the September 18 attack at the Uri army base in Jammu and Kashmir, in which 18 soldiers were killed, and the Indian military’s subsequent surgical strikes across the Line of Control, the de facto border.
The Uri attack was the tipping point as Pakistan, accused of harbouring militants to do its military’s bidding, ratcheted up the Kashmir issue after civilian unrest engulfed the frontier state over the killing of a militant leader in July.
“India has not attacked anyone. It is neither hungry for land. But in the two World Wars, 1.5 lakh Indian soldiers laid down their lives,” the Prime Minister said at the inauguration of the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, a modern complex dedicated to overseas Indians.
PM: India has never coveted territory, never attacked another country yet thousands of Indians gave their lives in the 1st world war pic.twitter.com/g1pzn7DTr2— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) October 2, 2016
India and Pakistan have fought three full-fledged wars and an intense two-month battle over Kargil in 1999.
Modi said the Indian community abroad did not believe in indulging in politics or grabbing power in foreign lands. They, on the other hand, mingle with other communities by following the principle of social well-being.
“They are like water. They change their colour and shape in accordance with the need.”
In an apparent reference to previous governments, he said the country could not make the world realise the importance of its sacrifice despite the great price it paid.
He referred to visiting as a rule memorials of Indian soldiers whenever he goes abroad.
Modi said “brain drain” — the erudite leaving India to work or settle abroad — could be converted into “brain gain” if the nation started looking at the 27-million diaspora spread across the world as a strength rather than a number.
“We have presence of Pravasi Bharatiyas in more than 150 countries. They are a huge strength for our missions,” he said.
Modi stressed the need to connect with the diaspora and hailed former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who started the idea of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
He called it appropriate to inaugurate the centre on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. “Gandhiji had left India but the call of the nation brought him back. Nothing can be a bigger inspiration than this.”
Located in south Delhi’s Chanakyapuri, the centre will serve as the focal point of the institutional framework to benefit from networks with and among 27 million PIOs (persons of Indian origin) and NRIs (non-resident Indians).
For her part, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the centre was not just an ordinary building, but a memorial of the forefathers who had left India in search of work.
She said the diaspora has preserved Indian traditions, festivals and languages alive in foreign lands. “It is an image of the Indian community which keeps the head of India high abroad.”