Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday expressed the resolve of his government to eliminate terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and cited the September 2016 strike across the line of control border as an example of his administration’s new policy in dealing with the challenge.
In an address in Srinagar, Modi who is on a day long visit to the state, also paid tributes to those killed fighting terrorists in the region assuring people that the rest of the country was standing by with them.
Modi’s comments come as Pakistan seems to be making efforts bring the spotlight back on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan by highlighting what it calls are human rights abuses committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir.
"I assure all the youths of Jammu and Kashmir and the country that the government will give befitting response ('muhtod jawab') to every terrorist. We will break the backbone of terror in the state," Modi said.
India's surgical strike across the Line of Control has shown the world its new policy and tradition in tackling terrorism, Modi said referring to Indian troops crossing the line of control border in September 2016 to destroy terrorist launch pads in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. The strikes followed the killing of 19 Indian soldiers in an attack by terrorists in the garrison town of Uri.
India blames Pakistan for fomenting terrorism in Kashmir -- a charge Pakistan denies though it admits to extending moral, political and diplomatic support to the "freedom struggle" in Kashmir.
Paying homage to those killed while fighting terrorists, including militant turned Indian army soldier Nazir Ahmed Wani and another soldier Aurangzeb from Jammu and Kashmir, Modi said heroes were those who lived to fulfil dreams while in contrast the biggest cowards were those who killed others' dreams.
"Today the whole country is angry to see the killings of innocent and armless Kashmiri youths. (These Kashmiri boys are targeted) because these youths want to live and fulfil their dreams. But they are targeted by terrorism. This is the truth of terrorism here," he said, adding the Indian government will fight terrorism with all its might.
The prime minister said the development of people of Jammu and Kashmir was a major priority of the central government as he laid the groundwork for various projects in Srinagar worth an estimated ₹7,000 crore including a rural Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) in Bandipore, which he said would help improve job opportunities for Kashmiri youth.
Modi also inaugurated multipurpose indoor sports facility at Sephora in Ganderbal district, among other projects.
Modi’s comments come against the backdrop of recent attempts by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to highlight the Kashmir dispute. Qureshi is to speak at a conference in London this week where he expected to pledge continued support to the Kashmir insurgency.
Last week, Qureshi telephoned separatist Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and discussed with him Islamabad's efforts to highlight the Kashmir issue, a move that angered India with the Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar warning of consequences if it was repeated. Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale also Pakistan envoy Sohail Mahmood and registered India’s strong protest at Qureshi's telephonic conversation with Farooq describing it as a "brazen attempt" to subvert India's unity and violate its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Undeterred by India’s reaction, Qureshi on Saturday telephoned another separatist leader Syed Ali Sha Geelani with news reports quoting Pakistan’s Foreign Office as saying on Sunday that Qureshi exchanged views with Geelani about the programmes to be held in London that aims to "express solidarity with the Kashmiri people."
*With inputs from PTI