Striking a positive note on India's 63rd Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday asserted that Indians had immense faith and confidence in themselves and the world's largest democracy was headed to a "new glory".
In his sixth consecutive address from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the prime minister sought to allay fears emanating from the global economic meltdown, unending terrorism and the swine flu to assert that India had the strength and resilience to overcome all obstacles.
"Some people question whether India will ever be able to attain its true potential," Manmohan Singh said, as a slight drizzle accompanied his first Red Fort speech since he was voted back to office in May. "I have no doubt about this.
"We are rapidly moving forward. We have faith in ourselves. We have political stability. Our democracy is an example for the whole world. We are gaining in economic strength. Most importantly, we have confidence in our youth... I am sure that they will take our country to a new glory."
Speaking in Hindi from a prepared text, the 76-year-old scholar-politician referred to a wide range of issues from climate change and water shortage to economy, terrorism and a new world order. But his tone was positive and he vowed to return India to a 9 percent annual growth.
Around 700 invitees, including school children attired in the national tricolour as well as political VIPs and diplomats, packed the seated and open enclosure facing the Red Fort, the majestic Mughal-built 17th century monument that is at the heart of independence day celebrations.
The prime minister said India was confident of returning to its 9 per cent growth path despite the global economic crisis and also of achieving a 4 per cent annual growth in agriculture in five years. He urged people not to let swine flu, which has killed 23 Indians, disrupt their lives.
Pointing out that India's economic growth slid to 6.7 per cent in 2008-09, he said "it is only a result of our policies that the global crisis has affected us to a lesser extent than many other countries".
"Restoring our growth rate to 9 per cent is the greatest challenge we face," he said. "We expect there will be an improvement in the situation by the end of this year."
An economist of repute, Manmohan Singh said the time had come for India to unleash another Green Revolution to dramatically boost its food output.
He said the country needed to embrace more modern means to succeed in agriculture and make more efficient use of its scarce land and water resources.
"The country needs another Green Revolution and we will try our best to make it possible," he said. He admitted that deficit rains this year would have "some adverse impact on our crops" and promised to help farmers in distress.
Manmohan Singh made a reference to swine flu that has killed 23 people and affected 1,400. He said while the central and state governments would do everything to contain the disease, "the situation doesn't warrant a disruption of our daily lives because of fear and anxiety".
Perhaps for the first time in recent years, the prime minister made no reference to Pakistan by name even as he addressed issues related to South Asia, terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir.
Describing terrorism as a global threat, Manmohan Singh said there was no place in Indian democracy to those who resorted to violence to voice their disagreement. "The government will deal firmly with such people."
He said India's security forces and intelligence agencies were being strengthened following the audacious terror attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists that left nearly 170 people dead last year. "I am sure that with cooperation from all sections of our society, we will be successful in eliminating terrorism."
Manmohan Singh said his government was committed to eradicating backwardness and unemployment and reduce disparities in income and wealth so as to combat the Maoist appeal.
The prime minister promised to assist the Jammu and Kashmir government to improve governance in the state where thousands have died in a separatist campaign for which New Delhi blames Islamabad.
"It will be our endeavour to ensure that human rights are respected in the state and all its citizens are able to lead a life of peace and dignity in an environment of safety and security," he said.
Manmohan Singh said India wished to tackle the problem of climate change along with other countries.
India also desired to live in peace with all its neighbours, he said, raising questions about the effectiveness of the multilateral institutions without New Delhi's active participation.
Making promises to bring about sweeping changes in the lives of millions of Indians in the economic, educational and social sectors, Manmohan Singh said his Congress-led coalition had won "a mandate for starting a new era of cooperation and harmony in our national life".