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PM Modi throws Baloch barb at Pakistan

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Aug 16, 2016, 6:54 am IST
Updated : Aug 16, 2016, 6:54 am IST

PM Narendra Modi waves before addressing the nation on the occasion of the 70th Independence Day from Red Fort in New Delhi. (Photo: Pritam Bandyopadhyay)

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PM Narendra Modi waves before addressing the nation on the occasion of the 70th Independence Day from Red Fort in New Delhi. (Photo: Pritam Bandyopadhyay)

Signalling a major shift in foreign policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit back at Pakistan — which had dedicated its Independence Day on Sunday to the “freedom” of Kashmir — and brought up Balochistan in his Independence Day speech, possibly the first-time an Indian PM has referred to the restive Pakistani province from the ramparts of Red Fort.

Mr Modi’s move is a clear signal that India will not fight shy of playing the Baloch card to counter Pakistan’s Kashmir card.

In his 94-minute speech on Monday, PM Modi thanked the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and other parts of PoK for their greetings. “From the Red Fort, I want to send special greetings and thank some people. In the past few days, the people of Balochistan, Gilgit, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the way they have profusely thanked me, areas which I have not even seen, those whom I have never met, those sitting far away are sending their greetings to the Prime Minister of India, it is an honour to the 125 crore people of India,” the PM said.

With this statement, Mr Modi sought to highlight the rampant discontent in these areas because of human rights violations by Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan immediately retaliated by claiming that Mr Modi’s statement proved that India has been “fomenting terrorism” in the province, an allegation that has always been contemptuously dismissed by India as baseless and absurd.

Asserting that the situation in Balochistan cannot be equated with Kashmir, Pakistan Prime Minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, claimed that Mr Modi was trying to divert the world’s attention from the “grim tragedy” that has been unfolding in Kashmir over the past five weeks. The reference to Balochistan, which is an integral part of Pakistan, “only proves Pakistan’s contention that India, through its main intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has been fomenting terrorism in Balochistan”, Mr Aziz was quoted by news agencies as saying in Islamabad.

Creating an analogy between the Peshawar terrorist attack and the recent Jammu and Kashmir unrest, Mr Modi attacked Pakistan for trying to interfere in India’s internal matters.

“When innocent kids were killed by terrorists in Peshawar school, our Parliament was shedding tears and the whole country was shedding tears for them. This is our culture and tradition,” said PM Modi, and then mentioned how Pakistan observed a “black day” after the killing of Burhan Wani. “There are some who celebrate killing of innocents by terrorists and glorify them. What sort of terror-inspired government is that, the whole world knows about it,” he added.

“This is our culture derived from humanism, but elsewhere terrorism was being glorified. Some people there celebrate when innocents are killed in a terror attack. The world will understand this. This is enough for me,” PM Modi added.

Saying that India would never bow before terrorism, Mr Modi also attacked Maoism, saying innocents were being killed and appealed to extremists to join the mainstream. “Today in the name of Maoism in the jungles, in the name of extremism in the border areas, in the name of terrorism on the mountains, innocent people are being killed. Mother India was continuously soaked in blood, but those following the path of terrorism achieved nothing. I want to tell these youths that this country will never tolerate terrorism and will never bow to terrorism or Maoism. I want to appeal to these youths that there is still time, shun the path of violence and try to fulfil the dream of your parents. Join the mainstream and lead a life of comfort and happiness, as the path of violence has never helped anyone,” Mr Modi said.

The last reference to Balochistan was in a joint statement by India and Pakistan in July, 2009, during the UPA-II tenure at a time when Pakistan was trying to insinuate that there was meddling by India in Balochistan. India agreeing then to that joint statement at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was viewed as a strategic blunder by the then Manmohan Singh government.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi