NEW DELHI (AP) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged in his Independence Day speech Tuesday to wipe out corruption and usher in good governance, urging people to help him build a prosperous and united "New India."
In an hour-long speech to mark the anniversary of India's independence from British rule, Modi pledged to bring in transparency to end decades of graft.
"We may have grown up in despair, but now we have to move ahead with confidence," he said as he addressed the nation from the Red Fort, a sprawling 17th century fortress in the heart of New Delhi.
Modi hailed his government efforts in recent months to cut graft, including the surprise decision to withdraw large currency notes and an overhaul of taxes on goods and services that he said had brought billions of dollars of unaccounted money into the mainstream economy.
The prime minister's annual speech outlined his government's agenda in tackling the many problems faced by this country of 1.3 billion people.
Although his government has been pursuing a tough line in the Indian-controlled part of disputed Kashmir, Modi urged a more conciliatory approach toward Kashmiri people, saying rather than resort to abuse or bullets, efforts should be made to "embrace" the people and bring them into the mainstream of the country.
Referring to external threats to the country, he declared that India was capable of defending itself from all threats. Without naming its hostile neighbors, China and Pakistan, Modi said the country's security was a priority for his government.
"Internal security is our priority. Be it sea or borders, be it cyber or space, India is capable of tackling every security challenge," he said.
Modi also referred to internal threats to the country's unity, condemning the use of violence in the name of faith.
Since Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, fringe Hindu groups have carried out deadly attacks on Muslims accused of eating beef.
Many Hindus consider cows sacred and slaughtering cows or eating beef is illegal or restricted in much of the Hindu-majority country.
A large part of Modi's speech dealt with his government's efforts to end corruption and bureaucratic lethargy and cut red tape.
He said the withdrawal of large currency notes had hauled around $47 billion of illegal money into the formal banking system, although the currency transition caused difficulty for many people. Similarly, the mammoth task of overhauling the country's taxes on goods had been nothing short of "a technological miracle," he said.