NEW DELHI - President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday described the central government's decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution from Jammu and Kashmir as a historic one and said that it has paved the way for equal development of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Addressing the joint session of Parliament here ahead of the Budget Session, Kovind said, "The abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution by Parliament is not only historic but it has also paved way for equal development of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh."
The President stressed that rapid development of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, protection of culture and traditions, transparent and honest administration and empowerment of democracy are among the priorities of his government.
The government had abrogated the Article 370 of the Constitution from Jammu and Kashmir, that gave special status to the erstwhile state on August 5. The government also bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The President said that the government was working with "full force" to rid India of militancy and security forces have been given a free hand in taking the "strongest" measures possible to deal with the menace.
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 militancy, 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 militancy," he said.
"The decrease in militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir demonstrates that public cooperation can be effective in the fight against militancy. My government has given the security forces a free hand in taking the strongest measures against those indulging in militancy," the president said.
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