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Modi Highlights India's Achievements in Independence Day Speech


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day from the ramparts of the historical Red Fort in New Delhi, India, Aug. 15, 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked the 70th anniversary of India's break from British colonial rule with a vow to end corruption and a plea for religious tolerance.

Modi used his annual Independence Day speech Tuesday at New Delhi's landmark Red Fort to tout his controversial decision to withdraw large currency notes from circulation.

FILE - An Indian man displays new currency notes of 2000 Indian rupee in Ahmadabad, India, Nov. 11, 2016. The sudden withdrawal of 86 percent of India's currency has left cash in short supply, retail sales stumbling and wholesale markets in turmoil.
FILE - An Indian man displays new currency notes of 2000 Indian rupee in Ahmadabad, India, Nov. 11, 2016. The sudden withdrawal of 86 percent of India's currency has left cash in short supply, retail sales stumbling and wholesale markets in turmoil.

The prime minister says the decision pulled in at least $46 billion in undeclared wealth from the underground economy into India's formal banking system, even though it caused a serious cash shortage.

Modi denounced violence carried out by right-wing Hindus against minority Muslims and lower-caste Hindus accused of eating beef, which violates the belief among Hindus that cows are sacred.

He also proclaimed India could defend itself against any and all enemies, "be it the sea or borders, cyber or space." India is currently engaged in a tense, two-month long territorial dispute with China in a strategic eastern Himalayan region.

During a phone call Monday, the White House says U.S. President Donald Trump and Modi resolved to "enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue that will elevate their strategic consultations." Trump also congratulated India's 1.2 billion citizens on their country's independence, with both leaders looking forward to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India in November. Trump's daughter, Ivanka, is leading the U.S. summit delegation.

The White House says Modi "thanked President Trump for his strong leadership uniting the world against the North Korean menace."

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs President Donald Trump as Modi departs the White House, June 26, 2017.
FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs President Donald Trump as Modi departs the White House, June 26, 2017.

During Tuesday's Independence Day speech, Modi offered a note of conciliation towards the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, saying it was a better option than "bullets or abuses."

FILE - A tear gas shell fired by an Indian policeman explodes behind Kashmiri protesters during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, June 16, 2017.
FILE - A tear gas shell fired by an Indian policeman explodes behind Kashmiri protesters during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, June 16, 2017.

Indian security forces have been fighting Kashmir separatists who are seeking either independence or greater ties to Pakistan, India's bitter rival. Kashmir has been the center point of a territorial tug-of-war between India and Pakistan for decades.

In 1947, Britain split its giant Indian empire into two new nations, a Hindu-majority India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan. Pakistan celebrated its independence on Monday.

People buy Pakistani flags to celebrate the 70th Independence Day in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Aug. 14, 2017. Pakistan gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
People buy Pakistani flags to celebrate the 70th Independence Day in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Aug. 14, 2017. Pakistan gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

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