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On India’s 75th birthday, Modi pledges to make it a developed country in 25 years

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation Monday from the 17th century Red Fort in New Delhi.
(Pankaj Nangia / Associated Press)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged Monday to raise millions out of poverty and turn India into a developed country in the next quarter-century as he marked 75 years since independence from British rule.

Wearing a flowing, cream-colored turban printed with small stripes of orange, white and green, the colors of the national flag, Modi addressed the country from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort, saying the world was looking toward India to help resolve global issues.

Modi said the journey of the last 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 mind-set.

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Modi said India would be guided by the ideals of self-reliance and the spirit of international partnership to attain excellence in science and technology, establish industries, and achieve 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, pharmaceuticals, space science and civil nuclear energy.

Modi said millions of people across the country were commemorating the 75th anniversary of independence by hoisting 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, the presidential palace, national monuments and other government offices blazed with multicolored lighting.

Since its independence in 1947, India has transformed from a poverty-stricken nation into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

The main opposition Congress party accused the Modi government of leaving opposition parties out of the 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,” a term meaning “know-it-all,” in reference to Modi.

President Biden, in a statement celebrating Indian Independence Day, said the two countries were indispensable partners 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.”

For centuries, the emperor Aurangzeb remained relegated to India’s history books, but his name is now being used in a way that alarms Muslims.

India and the U.S. have been expanding their security partnership, underscoring their mutual concerns over China’s growing influence in the region. They are both part of the regional Quad alliance that also includes Japan and Australia and focuses on China’s growing economic and military strength. China has called the Quad an attempt to contain its ambitions.

In his 80-minute speech, Modi made no reference to India’s tense ties with neighbors Pakistan and China, or any steps to improve relations.

Modi called for national unity but didn’t respond to experts and critics who say that the country has been gradually retreating from some of its commitments and that 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 that foments hatred of and discrimination against India’s 200 million Muslims.

Modi pledged to fight political corruption and nepotism, which he said were acting as termites eating away at the gains of development.


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