We will apply the salve to Kashmir's wounds

Taken from a speech to mark Independence Day by India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, which was delivered at Red Fort, New Delhi
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My heartiest congratulations to all of you on the anniversary of our independence. Wherever you may be - at the highest mountain peaks of the Himalayas or on the shores of the Indian Ocean; on the desert sands of Rajasthan or in the green jungles of the North-east - may my greetings reach all of you.

My heartiest congratulations to all of you on the anniversary of our independence. Wherever you may be - at the highest mountain peaks of the Himalayas or on the shores of the Indian Ocean; on the desert sands of Rajasthan or in the green jungles of the North-east - may my greetings reach all of you.

This is the first Independence Day of the new century. While looking back at the century just past, we must work hard to convert the challenges of the new century into opportunities. We must make our independence last for ever. We must reiterate, today, our resolve to defend our nation.

Today, we especially remember Mahatma Gandhi. He was not onlythe foremost leader of our freedom struggle, but he was also amongthe greatest personalities of the20th century.

India is on the move. An India full of self-confidence is marching forward on the path to progress. It is an India that is as determined to win against all adversities as were our brave Jawans and airmen. Our hearts are filled with everlasting gratitude towards the brave soldiers of the Kargil and all previous wars.

Pakistan would be committing a terrible folly if it thinks that it can secure anything through the undeclared war that it has been waging against India. Kashmir has been an unbreakable part of India, and it will remain so.

The 21st century does not permit the redrawing of borders either in the name of religion or on the strength of the sword. This is the age for resolving differences, not for prolonging disputes. The people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are tired of violence and bloodshed. They are craving for peace. We need to apply the salve of brotherhood on the wounded body of Jammu and Kashmir.

That is why I recently announced that India is prepared to apply the balm for Kashmir's agony within the framework of humanity.

The world knows who has derailed the move to end hostilities and to start the peace process. The world knows who has torpedoed these efforts. On the one hand, Pakistan says it is willing to participate in talks. On the other hand, it continues to be deeply involved in violence, killings and cross-border terrorism.

The activities of the terrorists and proposals for peace talks cannot go together. India's willingness and ability to deal firmly with violence, terrorism, extremism and separatism should not be underestimated.

Dear countrymen, we have to build a magnificent nation. There is no other country in the world that is so ancient, so big, so populous and so rich in diversities; that has preserved its democracy, its unity and its culture; and that is fast emerging as a modern and prosperous nation.

Now we have to make determined efforts to meet the economic challenges before the nation. We have to accelerate and broaden our development process, so that no child of Mother India remains hungry, homeless or unemployed, or is without access to medical care.

The most valuable investment that we can make in India's future is to ensure that every child gets education. We have decided that by 2010, every Indian child will get education up to class eight. We have launched an "Education for All" campaign to achieve this goal. Education until graduation has been made free for women. All poor families should take advantage of this.

Come, let all of us contribute our might to the creation of an industrious India, an achieving India and a winning India.

Our motto for all ages has been: "Let us walk together, Let us speak in one voice, Let our hearts beat together." In other words, let us march forward united - all of us together, and taking everybody together. Let us make the 21st century India's century. This is our resolve. This is our aspiration. Thank you.

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