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King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk shakes hands with President Pranab Mukherjee, as Bhutanese Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck (left) and Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmisth, look on at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, yesterday. The King is the chief guest at the 64th Republic Day military parade today.
New Delhi: In his maiden Republic Day-eve speech, President Pranab Mukherjee warned Pakistan not to take India’s friendship for granted, hailed the spirit of the Indian youth and said brutalising women amounted to wounding “the soul of our civilisation”.
In a crisp speech laced with his trademark intellect, the president referred to the numerous doubts and problems plaguing the world’s largest democracy but predicted a bright future for India.
“On our 64th Republic Day, there may be some reason for concern but none for despair,” said the veteran politician who became the head of state in July 2012. “If India has changed more in six decades than six previous centuries, then I promise you that it will change more in the next 10 years than in the previous sixty,” he said. “India’s enduring vitality is at work.”
Without naming Pakistan, the president spoke of “serious atrocities” committed on Indian troops on the Jammu and Kashmir border — an obvious reference to the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistanis. “Neighbours may have disagreements; tension can be a subtext of frontiers. But sponsorship of terrorism through non-state actors is a matter of deep concern to the entire nation. “We believe in peace on the border and are always ready to offer a hand in the hope of friendship. But this hand should not be taken for granted.”
Mukherjee spoke about the December 16 rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi, calling the 23-year-old a “symbol of all that new India strives to be”.