India Celebrates 70th Independence Day

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India celebrated its 70th Independence Day on Monday with traditional fervour and gaiety across the country. Ceremonies were held in New Delhi and other major Indian cities to commemorate the day.

Flag hoisting ceremonies were held in the provincial capitals and district headquarters at 7am. The main ceremony of the day was held at the historic Red Fort (in New Delhi) from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation.

From the ramparts of Red Fort, the Indian premier attacked neighbouring Pakistan in strong words, saying that Islamabad glorifies terrorists who attack India. Modi made clear that India would never bow down or yield to terrorism and extremism, as he asked the youth to shun violence.

Amid ongoing bitterness between the two neighbours, the PM launched attack on Pakistan, stressing: “People of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir have thanked me a lot in past few days and I am grateful to them. This is the example of our humanitarian approach, but there are some countries who glorify terrorists.” He also said that India cried when innocent school children were killed in terror attack on Peshawar.

Modi used strong words against Pakistan just a day after Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit made provocative remarks, saying that he dedicated his country’s Independence Day (celebrated on August 14) to Kashmir’s ‘freedom’ and would continue to extend full diplomatic, political and moral support to the people of the northern Indian province. Basit celebrated Pakistan’s Independence Day at its embassy in the Indian capital.

Foreign policy experts have opined that Modi, in his Independence Day speech, hinted a shift in India’s “Pakistan policy”. Since becoming PM, he has been trying to deal with the‎ Kashmir issue diplomatically. He also tried to maintain ‘close’ ties with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in order to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues through peaceful negotiation. However, Modi is yet to get a positive response from Islamabad. As a result, he has decided to raise India’s stakes on Kashmir by highlighting Pakistan’s own failings in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan. And his move is going down well with India’s strategic community.

Former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal and former Envoy to Islamabad G Parthasarathy have welcomed Modi’s remarks, saying that the PM has taken a more realistic approach to the neighbouring country. “India has been more restrained than necessary so far despite Pakistan constantly carrying out a propaganda on Kashmir, saying it is the legacy of Partition. If that’s the case, Balochistan also is a legacy of Partition,” stressed Parthasarathy while recalling how founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali had recognised‎ Balochistan’s independent status before Pakistan obtained its accession.

Earlier on Sunday, President Pranab Mukherjee extended warm greetings to the people of India. On the eve of 69th anniversary of Independence, the president expressed satisfaction over the South Asian country’s economic development, saying: “India has had remarkable growth in recent times, often growing above 8% per annum over the last decade. International agencies have acknowledged India’s status as the fastest growing major economy.”

Mukherjee also urged his countrymen to “take destiny in our own hands to build the nation of our dreams”. He stressed the need to look ahead instead of looking back in history. “In the networked environment of today, a caring society can only be developed by harmonising religion with modern science. One unique feature that has held India together is our respect for each other’s cultures, values and beliefs. The very essence of plurality lies in cherishing our heterogeneity and valuing our diversity,” added the president.

India observes Independence Day annually on August 15 to commemorate the nation’s independence from the British Empire on August 15, 1947. On the basis of Lord Mountbatten’s (the last Viceroy of the British Indian Empire and the first Governor-General of independent India) inputs, the Indian Independence Bill was introduced in the British House of Commons on July 4, 1947 and passed within a fortnight. The Bill provided for the end of the British rule in India on August 15, 1947 and the establishment of the Dominions of India and Pakistan, which were allowed to secede from the British Commonwealth.

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