Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled his vision for "a new India" on the country's 59th independence anniversary on Tuesday while warning that peace with Pakistan could be hit unless Islamabad took "concrete measures" to end cross-border terrorism.
In a nearly 50-minute speech, his third since he became prime minister in 2004, from the ramparts of the Mughal-built Red Fort, Manmohan Singh spoke of a resurgent India in an era of globalisation without glossing over issues such as poverty, hunger and homelessness.
The most significant highlights were his characterisation of terrorism and Maoism, or Naxalism, as the two major internal threats confronting India and his plea to Pakistan to stop backing terrorists directed against this country.
Reading a prepared speech in Hindustani from behind a bullet-proof enclosure, the bureaucrat-turned-politician underlined that an atmosphere of peace was vital for the success of the India-Pakistan peace process started two years ago by his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
"It is obvious that unless Pakistan takes concrete steps to implement the solemn assurances it has given to prevent cross-border terrorism against India from any territory within its control, public opinion in India, which has supported the peace process, will be undermined."
"All countries in our region must recognise that terrorism anywhere is a threat to peace and prosperity everywhere. It must be confronted with our united efforts.
There is a large constituency for peace and shared prosperity among our people and we must work together to build on that," he said, as hundreds of security personnel, in uniform and otherwise, provided an impenetrable cover on the occasion.
An estimated 8,000 people, half of them schoolchildren in their uniforms, were gathered facing the Red Fort.
Manmohan Singh said India was ready to give its neighbours "a stake in our own prosperity and share the fruits of our growth with them".
"However, the dream of a South Asian community, where borders have ceased to matter and there is an unhindered flow of goods and peoples, culture and ideas, can hardly be realised if terrorist violence and the politics of hate and confrontation continue to cast a dark shadow," he added.
The prime minister described Mumbai's horrific train bombings last month that killed some 200 people as "the most inhuman terrorist attack in the recent past" and praised the people of the city for refusing to cow down.
"I had said in Mumbai then that it cannot be business as usual for any of us," Manmohan Singh recalled.
"Terrorists want to undermine our growing economic strength; destroy our unity; and provoke communal incidents. We cannot allow this to happen."
In the same breath, he pledged to "modernise, strengthen and properly equip our security forces and intelligence agencies" and to "neutralise and smash" terrorist elements.
He declared, in an obvious reference to Pakistan: "Let those who want to hurt us by inflicting a thousand cuts remember - no one can break our will, or unity. No one can make India kneel."
The prime minister told Maoist groups that the path of violence would never solve the problems of the poor but advised state governments to pay attention to the welfare of tribals and small farmers.
"Our security forces will respond," he said, "appropriately to the violence unleashed by Naxalites."
In a speech repeatedly greeted with applause, Manmohan Singh spoke of the country's all-round progress but pointed to the many failings such as persisting hunger and suicides by farmers burdened by debts.
"The going has never been as good for India in the past as it is now," he said, adding that the economy had been growing at an impressive pace of over eight percent for three successive years. This, he said, was unprecedented.
"India is certainly on the march," he said, while admitting that poverty, hunger and illiteracy needed to be eradicated.