Security forces given free hand to deal with terrorism: President Kovind

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) The government is working with 'full force' to rid India of terrorism and security forces have been given a free hand in taking the 'strongest' measures possible to deal with the menace, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Friday, sending a clear message to Pakistan to contain cross-border terrorism.

In an address at a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament, the president touched on key foreign policy and military related issues and asserted that the world will witness an inclusive, prosperous, capable and powerful 'New India' in this decade.

He said the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff and creation of a Department of Military Affairs will improve coordination among the three services, besides speeding up their modernisation.

Referring to foreign policy issues, Kovind said India is stimulating economic growth and prosperity by increasing connectivity with its neighbouring countries and the 'Neighbourhood First' policy has been a priority.

'My government is of the view that foreign policy is a vital ingredient of the country's economic and strategic security,' he said.

On India's rising military prowess, Kovind talked about the successful test of anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) and major milestones in the development of the naval version of Tejas light combat aircraft.

'In these evolving times, to meet the new and complex challenges related to the defence of the country, my government is working to make the defence forces stronger, more effective and modern,' he said.

On tackling terrorism, he said alertness on the part of the citizens is extremely helpful in dealing with the challenge in view of the changing nature of terrorism.

'My government is working with full strength and determination to free the country from the scourge of terrorism,' he said.

'The decrease in terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir demonstrates that public cooperation can be effective in the fight against terrorism. My government has given the security forces a free hand in taking the strongest measures against those indulging in terrorism,' the president said.

India's warplanes struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26 to avenge the killing of 40 paramilitary personnel in Kashmir. The strike reflected a doctrinal shift in India's approach to deal with cross-border terrorism.

Kovind said the security situation in the North East has improved significantly due to the concerted efforts of the government, adding the geographical spread of Naxalism is also steadily shrinking.

On India's external engagement, he said the government has also strengthened ties with other countries of the world apart from countries in the neighbourhood.

'This is why a number of countries have bestowed their highest honour on India. Our cooperation with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and African countries is being taken to a new level,' he added.

The president also mentioned the India-initiated International Solar Alliance and the Coalition on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

'After International Solar Alliance, India has been at the forefront of a global partnership, Coalition on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure-CDRI. This step aimed at mitigating natural disasters will further strengthen India's stature as a sensitive world power,' he said. PTI MPB MPB MIN MIN