Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has broken his silence on New Delhi’s response to the recent Uri terror attack. In his first public address after September 18 terror attack from across the border, Prime Minister Modi launched a blistering attack on Pakistan on Saturday, saying: “Whenever a terror attack takes place, it emerges either the terrorist set out from Pakistan, or after the attack, like Osama Bin Laden, took refuge there.”

Speaking at a public meeting in southern Indian city of Kozhikode, Modi said India would never forget the militant attack that killed 19 soldiers in an Army base in Kashmir’s Uri District. He also accepted an often-quoted Pakistani “challenge” (read Benazir Bhutto slogan) of a 1,000-year war, saying: “Your (Pakistani) rulers speak of fighting India for 1,000 years. Today, there is such as government in New Delhi that I am ready to accept your challenge.”

Modi ripped into his ‘one-time’ friend and Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s needling UN General Assembly speech and phony talks offer, stressing: “Today, I am speaking to the people of Pakistan directly. From the leaders who read speeches written by terrorists, the world can expect nothing. But I want to speak to the people of Pakistan directly. I want to remind Pakistan that your ancestors used to consider undivided India as their land before 1947 and worshipped it. And in their memory, I want to tell you something. The people of Pakistan please ask your leaders that you have Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and you cannot manage it. Bangladesh used to be yours and you couldn’t manage it. You cannot manage Gilgit, Baltistan, Pakhtun, Balochistan, Sindh and you are talking about Kashmir.”

The Indian premier further said: “People of Pakistan must ask their leaders to first give secure lives to their citizens. Both our countries got freedom together. Why does India export software and your country export terrorists? Let’s compete to end poverty in our countries. Let’s see who gets there first. People of Pakistan and India will like this competition.”

Modi also made clear that India would never bowed to terror, as the world’s largest democratic country was committed to defeat the menace. Mentioning that the Indian soldiers have neutralised more than 110 terrorists “sent by the neighbouring country” in recent times, he told the audience: “Terrorism is enemy of humanity. Humanitarians all over the world have to unite and condemn terror.”

Going beyond knee-jerk reaction to Uri attack, Prime Minister Modi revealed the broad elements of his government’s post-Uri response. It seems that his strategy has three key major elements: improving the domestic morale and mood by changing the narrative from obvious failure to little known successes, distinguishing between Pakistani people and their rulers, and focusing on common challenges faced by people of the two neighbouring South Asian countries.

As is evident from Modi’s address, India is well aware of Pakistan’s internal vulnerabilities and will not hesitate to capitalise on it, if necessary. By speaking of Bangladesh, the PM reminded the Pakistani political establishment of a wound it has not yet recovered from and what India was capable of.

Earlier on Saturday, the PM met Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag, Vice Chief of the Indian Navy Admiral Karambir Singh and Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Arup Raha to discuss the situation arising out of the Uri attack. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, too, attended the meeting at the prime minister’s residence in New Delhi. Although no details of the meeting were available, defence sources said that they discussed India’s “Pakistan policy” in the changing geopolitical scenario.

The meeting took place after China assured Pakistan of its support in the event of any “foreign aggression” and also backed Islamabad’s stance on the Kashmir dispute. Immediately after China vowed to help Pakistan in case of “aggression”, the US announced that it would upgrade military combat exercises with India. In a statement, the US Department of Defence said that it has awarded Boeing a USD 81 million contract to supply 22 Harpoon missile systems for the Indian Navy’s Shishumar class submarines.

A ‘great game’ is getting set to be played between India, Pakistan, Russia, China and the US, as a “tectonic geo-strategic shift” is taking place in Asia.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]