NEW DELHI (AP) — The prime minister on Monday pledged to work with vigor to turn poverty-ridden India into a developed country in the next 25 years.
Wearing a flowing, cream-colored turban printed with small stripes of orange, white and green, Narendra Modi addressed the country from New Delhi’s 17th-century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence from British rule.
Modi said the world’s view of India was changing and it was looking toward the country to help resolve global issues.
President Joe Biden in a statement celebrating Indian Independence Day said the United States and India are indispensable partners, and their partnership is grounded in a shared commitment to the rule of law and the promotion of human freedom and dignity.
Biden said he was confident that “the two countries will continue to stand together to defend the rules-based order; foster greater peace, prosperity and security for our people; advance a free and open Indo-Pacific; and together address the challenges we face around the world.”
Modi said India will be guided by the ideals of self-reliance and the spirit of international partnership to attain excellence in science and technology, set up industries, and attain food and energy security. He said billions of dollars in investment were flowing into the country turning it into a manufacturing hub.
India’s efforts have already launched the country of 1.4 billion people into the ranks of leading countries in information technology, pharmacy, space science and civil nuclear energy.
Modi said millions of people across the country were commemorating the 75th anniversary of independence by hoisting orange, white and green national flags at their homes and businesses for three days as part of a government campaign “of awakening the spirit of patriotism in every heart.”
India’s Parliament House, the presidential palace, national monuments and other government offices blaze with multi-colored lighting.
Modi said the journey of the past 75 years had seen ups and downs with India battling against all odds with resilience and perseverance. He asked people to remove any trace of colonial mindset.
The main opposition Congress party accused the Modi government of leaving opposition parties out of celebrations.
“There were special functions in Parliament’s historic Central Hall to mark the 25th, 50th and 60th anniversary of India’s independence,” said Jairam Ramesh, an India National Congress party spokesperson. “Sadly, nothing like that has been organized for the 75th anniversary, which has been reduced to an occasion to glorify the Sarvagyaani,” using a term meaning “a person who knows all” in reference to Modi.
In his 80-minute speech, Modi made no reference to India’s tense ties with immediate neighbors Pakistan and China, nor any steps to improve relations.
He called for people’s unity to move forward but didn’t respond to experts and critics who say the country has been gradually departing from some commitments and argue the backsliding has accelerated since Modi came to power in 2014. They accuse his populist government of using unbridled political power to undermine democratic freedoms and preoccupying itself with pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda.
Modi pledged to fight corruption and nepotism in the country’s politics, which he said were acting as termites eating away the gains of development.
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