In his speech on the 74the Independence Day from the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dwelled on a variety of themes, <em>atma-nirbhar</em> (self-reliant) and expansionism being the leitmotifs. He remembered the sacrifices of freedom fighters, lauded the role of doctors and the healthcare personnel in war on coronavirus, laid a great deal of emphasis on <em>atma-nirbhar</em> India, discussed new education policy, assured the citizenry regarding the government’s resolve against terrorism and expansionism, and talked about fibre optic cable connection to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Importantly, he downplayed the Ram Temple issue.
The Prime Minister tried to dispel the widespread impression that the government is becoming inward looking or trying to revive the discredited import substitution policy. “Today, the whole world is interconnected and interdependent,” he said. “It’s time for India to play an important role in the global economy. For this, India has to become self-reliant. From agriculture, space to healthcare, India is taking several steps to build Atmanirbhar Bharat. I am confident that measures, like opening up the space sector will generate many new employment opportunities for our youth and provide further avenues to enhance their skills and potential.”
In short, he hinted at a policy in tune, and not at odds, with globalization. He seemed to suggest that he was just changing the terms of engagement: “Apart from ‘Make in India’, we must also embrace the mantra of ‘Make for World’.”
Modi expressed dissatisfaction with the extant globalization, which has led to flooding of our markets with foreign goods: “How long will the raw material from our country become a finished product and return to India?”
He gave the example of India’s contribution to the world’s war on corona: “Only a few months ago, we used to import N-95 masks, PPE kits, and ventilators from abroad. We not only made N-95 masks, PPE kits and ventilators during the pandemic, but were able to export these to all over the world.”
On the issue of conflict with China in Ladakh, he said, “Protecting India’s sovereignty is of prime importance to us. What we can do and our soldiers can do to protect this sovereignty, the world has seen with the events in Ladakh.”
Modi also dwelled upon the issue of women empowerment, informing the nation about intended moves of his government: “We have set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age for marriage of our daughters. We will take appropriate decision after the committee submits its report.”
Women emancipation was also evident symbolically, with a lady Army officer, Major Shweta Pandey, assisting the Prime Minister unfurl the tricolor at Red Fort.
He mentioned “a new development journey of Jammu and Kashmir.” He said, “This year is the year of rights for women and Dalits in Jammu and Kashmir! It is also a year of the dignified life of refugees in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a matter of pride for all of us that the representatives of the local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir are pushing forward a new era of development with activism and sensitivity.”
Further, he said, by making Ladakh a Union Territory last year, the old demand of its people has been met. “Ladakh, situated in the heights of the Himalayas, is moving forward today to touch new heights of development. Just as Sikkim has made its mark as an Organic State, in the coming days, Ladakh, will make its identity as a carbon neutral region, work is also being done in this direction.”
Significantly, the Ram Temple, which has been the prime issue for his party, did not figure prominently in his speech—just a few sentences. Perhaps more significantly, the highlights of the English translation of his speech don’t even mention the once contentious issue.
In a nutshell, Prime Minister Modi’s I-Day speech was about future rather than the past..