Linking development to national security, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lamented that his government was unable to spur economic growth because of the lack of political consensus on “many issues.”

In his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 66th Independence Day on Wednesday, he said the time had come to view the issues that hindered development as matters of “national security.” However, he did not flag any one issue.

The speech, coming as it did amid concerns at the slowdown of the economic reforms and the perception among the people of a ‘policy paralysis’ in UPA-II, mostly focused on economic issues.

“As far as creating an environment within the country for rapid economic growth is concerned, I believe that we are not being able to achieve this because of a lack of political consensus on many issues. The time has now come to view the issues which affect our development processes as matters of national security,” he said.

Dr. Singh warned that national security would be in jeopardy if the pace of growth was not stepped up, measures were not taken to encourage new investment, improve the management of government finances and ensure the livelihood of the common man and the country’s energy security.

The Prime Minister said the adverse global economic environment had also impacted Indian economy and there was little the country could do about the conditions that prevailed outside. “But we must make every effort to resolve the problems inside our country so that our economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities in the country are again speeded up.”

He conceded that because of drought faced by some States, there would be some difficulty in checking inflation, but there was no need for alarm as the country had a big stock of foodgrains.

Dr. Singh said his government would leave “no stone unturned” to encourage investment so that entrepreneurs could make a “substantial contribution” to the economy. “To attract foreign capital, we will have to create confidence at the international level that there are no barriers to investment in India.” On the recent violence in Assam, he said the government would make every effort to understand what sparked it.

In an obvious reference to the controversies during the last few months of the tenure of the former Army Chief, Gen. (retd.) V.K. Singh, Dr. Singh said: “We have seen a lot of discussion in the recent months about the role of our armed forces and their preparedness. Today, I would like to reassure our countrymen that our armed forces and paramilitary forces are prepared to face any challenge.”

On the much-debated issues relating to the pay and pension of the armed forces, he referred to the recently constituted committee and said his government would act promptly on its recommendations.

As for measures to tackle corruption, Dr. Singh listed some of the initiatives, but maintained that care would be taken to ensure they did not impact the morale of public functionaries.

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