NEW DELHI – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended on Thursday his new strategy in Indian-administered Kashmir during an address commemorating the country’s Independence Day.
“Different governments made efforts in 70 years to deal with Kashmir but it did not bear results; a new approach was needed. We neither nurse problems nor keep them pending,” Modi said in his speech at the Red Fort in New Delhi.
In a surprise move earlier this month, the Indian government moved a resolution to scrap Article 370 of the country’s constitution, which gave a special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
At the same time, to avoid protests, the Indian authorities imposed security restrictions that have left the inhabitants of the Kashmir Valley completely cut off for the last 11 days, along with hundreds of arrests and a strengthening of the military with the deployment of a contingent of 25,000 troops.
Modi, who belongs to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, underlined that his decision to revoke the special status of the only Muslim-majority region in India came about with the support of the two houses of the parliament and “less than 70 days” after the new government took office following his party’s resounding victory in the polls in May, in which he was re-elected.
According to Modi, the earlier arrangement prevailing in the state “encouraged corruption, nepotism but there was injustice when it came to the rights of women, children, Dalits (‘untouchables’), tribal communities.”
“How can we accept such a situation?” asked the leader, who said that the decision was taken thinking of “how the dreams of the people will be fulfilled” and of “the India of the 21st century.”
At a time of escalated tensions with neighboring Pakistan, which has criticized the ending of the special status to a region, which it disputes with India since the division of the subcontinent in 1947 and over which the two countries have fought two wars, Modi also announced the creation of a Chief of Defense Staff.
“Our forces are India’s pride. To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort: India will have a Chief of Defense Staff-CDS. This is going to make the forces even more effective,” Modi said.