Srinagar - In his first direct attack on Pakistan after coming to power, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday accused Islamabad of indulging in a proxy war killing innocent people in India and said the number of army casualties is bigger this way than in a conventional battle.
“It is unfortunate that our neighbour’s attitude…they have lost the power to fight a war but they use proxy war. There has been a process of killing innocent people through this proxy war.
“How many innocents are being killed? The number of people getting killed through the bullets of cowards is more than those killed in conventional wars,” he said while addressing troops on his maiden trip to Leh.
“They fight proxy war. This is (fight against it) not limited to India but of the entire world. That is why the need of the hour is to have humane forces come together than strengthening one’s military might. When all humane forces of the world come together then they will stop those indulging in violence,” he said.
Modi stressed that reconciliation between the nuclear-armed neighbours needs peace.
Modi also said “the government is committed to make India self-reliant in defence manufacturing” and promised that a National War Memorial would be built.
He also said that the country is committed to strong armed forces and to equipping them with modern arms and technology.
“The jawans should be assured that the entire country supports them. Soldiers remain undeterred in spite of the many negatives and struggles that their families face in day-to-day life,” Modi said, adding that the soldiers’ “energy and sense of duty inspires him”.
Modi added that the armed forces deployed in border areas are well connected with the people who live there.
He cited the example of the Kargil infiltration, about which the first information was given to the armed forces by a shepherd named Tashi Namgyal.
Later, writing in the visitor’s book at Leh Auditorium, Modi said that peace and security are a pre-requisite for development.
Modi, whose speech to troops in Leh was televised, gave no details of Pakistan’s “proxy war”, but India has for years complained that Pakistan backs fighters who slip in from Azad Kashmir to stage attacks.
The sharp attack on Pakistan by Modi came more than two months after assuming office and comes in the midst of his peace initiatives. Modi had invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders for his swearing-in on May 26.
Both Pakistan’s foreign ministry and its military declined to make any immediate comment on Modi’s speeches.
Pakistan has said in the past it gives only political support to the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir who it says face human rights abuses at the hands of Indian troops. India denies this.
In his government’s maiden budget last month, Modi boosted defence spending by 12 percent in 2014-15 over the previous year, when it was held at 2.04 trillion rupees ($33.4 billion dollar).
Sharif has made improving relations with India a cornerstone of his policy, yet Pakistan’s powerful military and security establishment is less keen to do so, also seeking to assert its primacy in external affairs. Fighting between Indian forces and rebel groups seeking independence for Kashmir or a merger of the territory with Pakistan has killed tens of thousands since 1989, mostly civilians.
Modi had been reportedly planning to visit Kashmir’s Siachen glacier - dubbed the world’s highest battlefield due to the long-running territorial dispute - but officials said he would not now do so, without giving a reason.
An estimated 8,000 troops have died on the glacier since 1984, almost all of them from avalanches, landslides, frostbite, altitude sickness or heart failure rather than combat.
The nuclear-armed rivals fought over Siachen in 1987, though guns on the glacier have largely fallen silent since a peace process began in 2004.
Modi’s visit came a day after Pakistan summoned a senior Indian diplomat over a cross-border firing incident near the eastern city of Sialkot at the foot of the Kashmir hills, which the foreign ministry said killed at least one civilian. Pakistani authorities accused India of a “ceasefire violation” and registered a formal protest.
Earlier, Indian police accused Pakistan of injuring four people during firing along their border in Kashmir.
New Delhi and Islamabad agreed a ceasefire in 2003 but firing along the disputed de facto border called the Line of Control still occurs sporadically.