India on high alert as PM vows to "neutralise and smash" militancy
INDIA: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday vowed to "neutralise
and smash" militancy as India celebrated its 59th Independence Day on
high alert against Islamic rebels.
"Terrorists want to undermine our growing economic strength, destroy
our unity and provoke communal incidents," Singh told the nation, just
over a month after Mumbai train bombings blamed on Muslim militants
"We cannot allow this to happen... We will not allow the secular
fabric of our country to be broken (and) we will leave no stone unturned
in ensuring that terrorist elements in India are neutralized and
smashed," he said from a bullet-proof enclosure at the Mughal-built Red
Fort in the Indian capital.
"Let those who want to hurt us by inflicting a thousand cuts remember
- no one can break our will... No one can make India kneel."
On Friday the US embassy in New Delhi said militants, possibly Al-Qaeda,
may be planning a series of blasts around Independence Day. India
dismissed the warning as "innocuous" but ratcheted up already-tight
security even further.
Some 10,000 security personnel Tuesday guarded the Red Fort while
another 90,000 kept a vigil across New Delhi, which was guarded during
Singh's address by military helicopters.
Combat troops also occupied streets in Indian-administered Kashmir,
where the smothering security and a total strike called by Muslim
separatists kept most people indoors, an AFP correspondent said.
Singh in his address said an "environment of peace" was necessary for
nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to resolve long-running disputes.
"Unless Pakistan takes concrete steps to implement the solemn
assurances it has given to prevent cross-border terrorism against India
from any territory within its control, public opinion in India, which
has supported the peace process, will be undermined," he said in a
reference to the Pakistani sector of Kashmir.
"We are prepared to work together with all our neighbours to usher in
an era of peace and prosperity for our peoples.
"We have taken several initiatives in this regard, in particular with
Pakistan. To be successful, these initiatives need an atmosphere of
peace," he said.
Earlier Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government
would do everything possible to keep inflation in check but there were
limits to what it could do to insulate people from the effects of record
high oil prices.
"I know each of our families is concerned about the prices of
essential commodities," he said in a televised Independence Day address
to the nation.
But Singh, the architect of India's economic reforms more than a
decade ago, said there was a limit to how much the government could
subsidise petroleum products in the face of rising import costs.
"How much more can the government treasury bear this burden?" Singh
said. "At some point, this will affect our ability to spend on other
important development programmes."
India imports 70 percent of its crude oil needs and policy makers say
high global oil prices are a concern for the economy.
India raised petrol and diesel prices in June, easing a little of the
pressure on refineries saddled with losses from rising crude prices.
"I must remind you that two years ago the international price of oil
was just over $30 per barrel. Today it is close to $75," Singh said.
"Even though world oil prices have more than doubled, we have
succeeded in insulating our consumers to a great extent." India's
central bank expects wholesale price inflation to be in the 5.0-5.5
percent range in the fiscal year to March 2007.
New Delhi, Tuesday, AFP, Reuters