Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday attacked Pakistan over alleged human rights abuses in Balochistan, Gilgit and “occupied” Kashmir, signalling an aggressive shift in India’s foreign policy during a fiery Independence Day speech targeting the neighbouring country.
The broadside at Pakistan was the high point of his 94-minute speech and part of the government’s attempts to counter Islamabad’s ploy of raising in international forums alleged human rights abuses by Indian security forces in Kashmir. At least 58 people have died and 2,000 injured in the Valley in a month-long spell of violence sparked by the killing of a militant leader in July.
“I want to specially thank some special people from the Red Fort. In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pak-occupied Kashmir had conveyed good wishes and gratitude to me,” Modi said in his address from the ramparts of the 17th century Red Fort, a tradition started by Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic “tryst with destiny” speech in 1947.
India and Pakistan, both born out of independence from Britain, celebrated their 70th Independence Day a day apart.
“I have never seen these lands or met them. But when they congratulate (the) Indian Prime Minister, they congratulate our 1.25 crore people. And this is why I am grateful from the bottom of my heart to the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pak-occupied Kashmir.”
In a sharp retort, Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said Modi was “only trying to divert world attention from the grim tragedy that has been unfolding in the Indian-occupied Kashmir over the past five weeks”.
The Congress also said that by raking up Balochistan, Modi was “ruining” India’s case on PoK.
“PoK is our...entitlement. We will support it. But by bringing in Balochistan…we are going to ruin our own case on PoK,” former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said.
Modi did not mention Kashmir where many areas are still under curfew. India has accused the western neighbour of stoking unrest in the Valley.
During an all-party meeting on Kashmir last week Modi said the time has come to expose Islamabad’s brutalities on its own people in the three restive areas where Pakistan’s security forces are accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings in crackdowns on dissidents.
“What kind of life is this, inspired by terrorism? What kind of government set-up is it that is inspired by terrorism?” asked Modi.
“The world will know about it and that’s sufficient for me,” said Modi, the first Indian PM to raise in an Independence Day speech rights abuses by Pakistani security forces in these areas.
He mentioned how India was “devastated” to hear about the killing of students in an army school in Peshawar.
“It brought tears in Parliament and every corner of India. This is our culture of humanity. On the other side, killing of innocents by terrorists are celebrated by a government inspired by terrorism,” said Modi who sported a red, pink and yellow turban.