Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday hit back at critics of his government’s decision to revoke Indian-controlled Kashmir’s autonomy, saying its special status had only led to terrorism and corruption.
The move would allow Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh to play a meaningful role in India’s development, Modi said in his address to the nation on Independence Day from New Delhi’s 17th-century Red Fort, before turning to his ambitions for India to become a US$5 trillion economy in the next five years.
“Those who supported Article 370, India is asking them — if this was so important and life changing, why was this article not made permanent,” said Modi, referring to the part of the constitution that gave Kashmir autonomy. “One Nation, One Constitution — this spirit has become a reality and India is proud of that.”
The constitutional change would not immediately alter the security situation in the Kashmir valley, but would allow the state to carry on with economic development rather than being “held hostage” by the state government in Srinagar, said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.
Modi faces a raft of serious challenges in his second term: He needs to bring back normalcy in the restive Kashmir region, create jobs, reduce hardship among millions of impoverished farmers and revive India’s slowing economy.
Modi also announced a new position of chief of defense staff, saying the move would “sharpen coordination” between the army, navy and air force services, and pitched for simultaneous federal and state elections, as well as a national discussion on the country’s population explosion.
“India was the only important military power lacking such a position,” Chellaney said. “Creating it is an essential first step to beginning the process of defense reforms.”
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