Becoming first prime minister since Independence to address a public rally in the Muslim-majority and war-torn Kargil district of the Kashmir region, Narendra Modi on Tuesday condemned Pakistan's "proxy war" as the neighbour increased the ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) across the state on the eve of the visit.
"The neighbouring country has lost the strength to fight a conventional war but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism. Indian armed forces were suffering more casualties from terrorism than from war," he said during his address to the armed forces in Leh. He said India was committed to a strong armed forces, well-equipped with modern arms and technology.
The Prime Minister's visit came amid raging ceasefire violations in the state near Mendhar, Balakote, Poonch in the Jammu region and Kargil's Drass area. Sources said the Pakistani troops fired in the Drass area on Monday afternoon in a rare ceasefire violation after the Kargil war ended in 1999. The area is less than 100 km away from the venue of the Prime Minister's speech in Kargil, which was earlier visited by former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, but they never held a public rally.
Laying foundation of the 220 KV transmission line and inaugurating two hydro-electricity projects, 75 MW Nemo-Bazgo in Leh and 45 MW Chutak in Kargil, Modi made it clear that no war cry but development can address the problems of this border region.
"I do not want to waste time on Pakistan and other border issues. Development is the key to address issues here," he said. He said the Ladakh region has come a long way from the war of 1999 "when only roaring guns were heard, but today there was thundering claps". "Patriotism of Kargil people should inspire others. I want to build on the change and pave the way for the region's progress and development," he added.
While announcing an additional Rs. 8,000 crore for road projects in Ladakh, Modi said technology to farmers, orchardists and craftsmen, availability of electricity for setting up local projects and end of corruption will remain the government's focus areas.
"I want to revive Pashmina craft and see Kashmir saffron reaching the international markets as a leading brand," he said.
Without naming Kashmiri Pandits, the Prime Minister said around 20 percent of Jammu and Kashmir's population has been displaced and affected by the militancy. "I want a dignified and honourable return of the displaced. Those who were affected by the militancy in the Kashmir Valley are also our brothers," said Modi, adding, "Atalji's dream will be realised".
Pointing to around 10,000-strong audience, mainly Muslims, Modi said, "This should act as inspiration for others in the country. Nobody could have thought of addressing such a huge gathering here."
Recalling his visit to Kargil during the 1999 war, Modi praised locals' valour and hospitality. "Locals' support provided a huge moral support to the fighting troops then," he added.
The audience, who raised slogans 'Modi, Modi...' clapped at every announcement made by the Prime Minister. "We have expectations from Modiji on the development front. We have come to hear him and his ideas," said Muhammad Yasin, a retired schoolteacher.