Indian PM pledges to fight terror

NEW DELHI: India celebrated today the anniversary of its independence from

British rule with a vow to eradicate terrorism from its soil in the wake

of last year’s “horrific” militant Islamic attacks on Mumbai.

India was boosting its security to prevent assaults such as the carnage in the country’s financial capital last November, in which gunmen killed 166 people, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

“After the horrific terror attacks

in Mumbai last November our government has taken various steps and our intelligence agencies and security organisations are being strengthened,” Singh said in an address to the nation from the heavily guarded Red Fort in the Indian capital.

“We will succeed in eradicating terrorism from Indian soil,” Singh added from behind a bullet-proof screen at the Mughal-built fort. The annual Independence Day address marks the end of British rule in 1947 and partition of the subcontinent into mainly Hindu India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, a split that has caused endless tension in the region.

Singh did not mention India’s rival Pakistan by name but reiterated that India wants to live in peace and harmony with its neighbours. “People who think they can rule with the power of the gun underestimate the power of Indian democracy,” Singh said.

New Delhi was under a huge

security blanket with armed commandos guarding the imposing

sandstone fort where cabinet ministers, diplomats and guests were invited to hear Singh’s speech. Police barricades blocked roads.

The prime minister also sought to allay fears that patchy monsoon rains, which have led to drought in many parts of the country, could lead to food shortages in the nation of more than one billion people.

“We have adequate stocks of

foodgrains and all efforts will be

made to control the rising prices of foodgrains, pulses and other goods of daily use,” Singh said.

But the premier described putting India’s economy back on its blistering annual growth path of nine per cent as “the greatest challenge.”

“Restoring our growth rate to

nine per cent is the greatest challenge we face,” Singh said.

“We expect that there will be an improvement in the situation by the end of this year, but till that time we will all have to bear with the fallout of the global economic slowdown,” he said.

While six per cent growth looks strong compared to anaemic rates in the US, Japan and Europe, India says it needs to return to nine per cent expansion or higher to reduce widespread, crushing poverty.