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Worried India Celebrates Independence

  • Anjana Pasricha

India is celebrating the 62nd anniversary of its independence from Great Britain. During the celebration Saturday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to meet the main challenges before the country - wiping out terrorism, and returning its economy to a high growth path.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday internal security is being strengthened to prevent terrorist assaults in the country. He expressed confidence that India will succeed in rooting out terrorism.

Mr. Singh was addressing the nation on Independence Day from the heavily guarded ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi.

India has suffered numerous terror attacks in recent years, including deadly strikes in its financial hub, Mumbai, last year. It blames these attacks on Islamic militants based in Pakistan, and suspended a formal peace process between the two countries following the Mumbai attacks.

Without mentioning Pakistan by name, Prime Minister Singh said India wants peace in the region.

He said India will strive to create an atmosphere that will promote economic and social development in all of South Asia.

The Indian leader also pledged to crack down on Maoist insurgents who have spread their influence in several eastern states, and mounted daring attacks on security forces in recent years.

Mr. Singh outlined the economy as the other challenge before the country. He said the government will take whatever steps are necessary to return the country to a high growth path. He expressed hope that the situation will improve by the end of the year.

As the country confronts the specter of a widespread drought due to deficit monsoon rains, the Prime Minister promised steps to protect farmers and poor people.

He said the country has adequate stocks of food grains and will make efforts to keep a check on rising prices of food items.

Mr. Singh also underlined the need for India to join the world in taking steps to protect the environment, and called on citizens to conserve scarce resources such as water.

As Indians held celebrations to mark Independence Day, separatist groups called for a strike in the northern Kashmir region, and in the northeast where several militant groups are fighting Indian rule.

Tens of thousands of soldiers guarded Indian cities as intelligence agencies warned that Islamic militants may mount attacks on the occasion of Independence Day celebrations.

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