NEW DELHI - Slamming Pakistan as an exporter of terrorism, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday accused his country's South Asian neighbor of trying to destabilize Asia and vowed to isolate it in the international community.
These were Modi's first public comments since a terror attack on an Indian army base heightened tensions between the two countries. They were made at a rally of his Bharatiya Janata Party in the southern Indian city of Kozhikode.
"People of Pakistan should question their leadership on why, when both countries gained freedom together, while India exports software to the world, Pakistan exports terrorists," he said.
Alluding to Pakistan, he said that while all Asian countries were working to ensure that the 21st century belongs to Asia, there was one nation working to ensure that this would not happen.
Modi named Afghanistan and Bangladesh as other countries in the region that were also suffering because of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
The hard-line leader has been under pressure to give a tough response to the attack that killed 18 soldiers at an army base close to the the border with Kashmir. India blamed the attack on the Pakistan-based Islamic militant Jaish-e-Mohammad group. Islamabad strongly denied any involvement and said India had not provided proof to back its accusations.
While the Indian leader spoke in tough language directed at Pakistan and vowed not to bow down in the face of terrorism, he also toned down the rhetoric from some leaders in his Hindu nationalist party who had raised questions about the possibility of a military escalation between the rivals.
Modi said he would mount a global campaign to diplomatically isolate Pakistan.
Saying he wanted to talk directly to the people of Pakistan, Modi said, "If the two countries have to wage a battle, then we must battle to end poverty, unemployment and illiteracy and see who wins."
Analysts say India wants to avoid a military escalation partly because of the restive situation in Indian Kashmir, where India has faced widespread civilian unrest for two months.
Pakistan has also said it will retaliate against any strikes on its territory.
India blames Pakistan-based militant groups of fomenting unrest in Kashmir and mounting terror attacks in India, while Pakistan accuses Indian security forces of widespread human rights violations in Indian Kashmir.
The Himalayan region is divided between the two countries and has been the trigger of two of their three wars.