The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, has pledged to turn India into a developed country within the next 25 years.
Wearing a flowing, cream-coloured turban with stripes of orange, white and green, the colors of the Indian flag, Modi addressed the country from New Delhi’s 17th-century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence from British rule .
Modi said the world’s view of India was changing and it was looking to the country to help resolve global issues.
Following a 21-gun salute, reportedly executed using howitzers made domestically for the first time under Modi’s “Make In India” industrial strategy, the prime minister said Indians should shed “colonialism in our minds and habits”.
“Hundreds of years of colonialism have restricted our sentiments, distorted our thoughts. When we see even the smallest thing related to colonialism in us or around us, we have to be rid of it,” Modi said in a 90-minute speech from the ramparts of the fort in the Indian capital, which was decorated with portraits of freedom fighters and guarded by mechanical elephants.
Modi also said India should crush the “termite” of corruption and nepotism, follow an “India First” mantra and ensure that “in speech and conduct, we do nothing that lowers a woman’s dignity”.
“Self-reliant India is the responsibility of every citizen, every government, every unit of society,” he said.
President Joe Biden in a statement celebrating Indian Independence Day said the US and India were indispensable partners, and their partnership was grounded in a shared commitment to the rule of law and the promotion of human freedom and dignity.
Biden said he was confident “the two countries will continue to stand together to defend the rules-based order; foster greater peace, prosperity and security for our people; advance a free and open Indo-Pacific; and together address the challenges we face around the world”.
Modi said India would be guided by the ideals of self-reliance and the spirit of international partnership to attain excellence in science and technology, set up industries, and attain food and energy security. He said billions of dollars in investment were flowing into the country, turning it into a manufacturing hub.
India’s efforts have already launched the country of 1.4 billion people into the ranks of leading countries in information technology, pharmacy, space science and civil nuclear energy.
Modi said millions of people across the country were commemorating the 75th anniversary of independence by hoisting orange, white and green national flags at their homes and businesses for three days as part of a government campaign “of awakening the spirit of patriotism in every heart”.
Modi said the journey of the past 75 years had seen ups and downs with India battling against all odds with resilience and perseverance. He asked people to remove any trace of a colonial mindset.
The main opposition Congress party accused the Modi government of leaving opposition parties out of celebrations.
“There were special functions in parliament’s historic Central Hall to mark the 25th, 50th and 60th anniversary of India’s independence,” said Jairam Ramesh, an India National Congress party spokesperson. “Sadly, nothing like that has been organized for the 75th anniversary, which has been reduced to an occasion to glorify the Sarvagyaani,” using a term meaning “a person who knows all” in reference to Modi.
In his speech, Modi made no reference to India’s tense relations with its immediate neighbors Pakistan and China, nor any steps to improve relations.
He called for unity among Indians but did not respond to experts and critics who say the country has been gradually departing from some democratic commitments and argue the backsliding has accelerated since Modi came to power in 2014. They accuse his populist government of using unbridled political power to undermine democratic freedoms and preoccupying itself with pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda.
Modi pledged to fight corruption and nepotism in the country’s politics, which he said were acting as termites eating away the gains of development.
AP and AFP contributed to this report