QT-Online / Saturday, August 15, 2020 / Categories: Top News Modi thanks Qatar, Gulf countries for ’letting Indians stay’ amid COVID-19 Tribune News Network Doha Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday spoke of India’s deepening ties with the Gulf countries and thanked them for letting Indians stay for an extended period amid the coronavirus pandemic. India is grateful to them for honouring New Delhi’s request, he said in his 90-minute address to the nation on the occasion of India's 74th Independence Day. India’s ties with the Gulf countries, crucial to meet New Delhi’s energy needs, had improved manifold in recent years, PM Modi said. The explicit expression of gratitude to Qatar and other Middle East countries comes amid the government’s consistent efforts to strengthen ties with the Gulf across sectors. Vaccines, infra push The Indian prime minister also talked of vaccines, further health digitalisation and an infrastructure push in his address, as the country struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. Three vaccines were in various stages of testing and could go in for mass production as soon as scientists gave the green light, Modi said during his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi. India gained independence from British rule on August 15, 1947. Celebrations marking the day are muted this year, with regional lockdowns and social distancing in place to contain the virus. India, a country of 1.3 billion, is among the worst-affected globally by Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. More than 2.5 million infections have been reported so far and 49,036 deaths. "Not one, not two, we have three vaccines being tested," Modi said. "We have prepared the infrastructure to provide the vaccine to every person in the country." "Our priority is to get the country out of this cloud of corona," Modi said addressing a less than usual crowd of officials, diplomats and media representatives, all seated following the norms of social distancing. Each of them had to undergo a thermal test before entering the venue and wore a mask. Modi wore his trademark colourful Independence Day turban, this time in white and orange with a flowing train. He used a matching scarf instead of a mask to cover his face when anyone came close. The lockdowns brought on by the pandemic have further slowed an already sluggish economy which could have a huge impact on a country where millions still live in poverty. Modi said there would be an investment of 100 trillion rupees (1.3 trillion dollars) in the National Infrastructure Pipeline Project, which has already been announced. The 7,000 infrastructure projects identified under this are designed to create employment, revive industries and businesses and create a holistic infrastructure grid for the country. Modi also announced a National Digital Health Mission which would use technology to improve health services and provide each citizen with a "health ID" that would include records of their history of illnesses, medication and other information. In his lengthy speech, Modi touched on a host of issues including the border stand-off with China and the need for India to become a bigger economic power globally by increasing exports and becoming self reliant. "How long are we going to sell raw materials to the world and buy back finished goods? This has to change, we have to move forward," Modi said, urging Indians to support local manufacturing. Without mentioning the names of China or Pakistan, Modi said: "Those who challenge India's sovereignty, be it LoC or LAC, our soldiers have replied in the same language ... What India can do, the world has seen in Ladakh." The LAC is the Line of Actual Control which marks a de facto military border along territory disputed by India and China. It saw a deadly border clash in June in which 20 Indian troopers were killed. The two sides are still engaged in a de-escalation process. The LoC or Line of Control is a similar line dividing disputed territory with Pakistan. (With inputs from DPA) Previous Article Former India captain MS Dhoni announces retirement from international cricket Next Article MME-led crackdown on illegal street vending sees confiscations, penalties Print 2184 Rate this article: 3.8 Please login or register to post comments.