New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday openly came out in support of "freedom" for Balochistan and "Pakistan-occupied Kashmir" and stressed the need for social harmony in India.
In his over 90-minute Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the Prime Minister also emphasized that his government's main aim was to empower the common Indian.
In a first for any Prime Minister in an August 15 address, Modi referred to human rights abuses in Balochistan and the part of Kashmir Pakistan controls.
"The world is watching. People of Balochistan, Gilgit, Baltistan and occupied Kashmir have thanked me a lot in the past few days. I am grateful to them," Modi said, referring to his comments last week on excesses in Pakistan's largest province and in the Kashmir it holds.
He said the way people from these Pakistani regions "wished me well, gives me great joy".
In thanking an Indian Prime Minister, "they have thanked the whole population of my country", he said. "I want to offer my gratitude to these people."
Modi had said at a meeting on Kashmir last week that it was time for Islamabad to explain to the world its "atrocities on people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Balochistan".
On Monday, Modi also hit out at Pakistan for supporting terrorism. This, he said, was in contrast to the way Indians reacted with sorrow when terrorists slaughtered school children in Peshawar.
"That is the nature of India. But on the other hand, look at those who glorify terrorists. What kind of people glorify terrorists? What kind of people celebrate when people are killed?"
Modi's third speech from the Red Fort came amid continuing violence in the Kashmir Valley that has left 56 people dead in five weeks of street unrest. He avoided any reference to Kashmir but warned those disturbing the country's unity.
"Violence has no place in our country. Violence is being carried out in the name of Maoism in forest areas and in the name of terrorism at the borders," he said, referring to Maoist insurgency in parts of central and eastern India and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast.
"All those who are killing innocents...I want to tell them that this country will not tolerate terrorism and militancy. Return to the mainstream."
He explained how certain shortcomings were hindering India's progress and urged people to fight against such practices and strengthen social harmony.
"Every citizen should fight against the differences in the society on the basis of caste and class. Only economic development will not help because without social harmony and unity, development will not be complete.
"We have to take everyone together be it Dalits, tribals, oppressed and people from the financially weaker section. A nation divided because of caste and religion cannot achieve great things."
Modi said his governance objective was to deliver the fruits of economic development to the last Indian.
He said he was was promoting transparency in governance and listed measures the NDA government had taken over the past two years to make life easier for ordinary people.
On the economic front, Modi said major global rating agencies now ranked India as one of the best investment destinations in the world. "It is important for India to remain relevant and lead the global economy."
He said his government had reined in inflation and "did not let it rise above 6 per cent" despite two years of drought.
Modi mentioned about the pan-India Goods and Services (GST) tax regime that he said would strengthen the economy. He thanked all political parties for the passage of the relevant bill to initiate the process.
"GST is also one such tax reform that will help us bring financial stability. One nation, one grid and one price is what we have worked on."