Modi defends move to revoke Article 370 in IoK

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The UN Security Council is due to meet behind closed-doors on Friday at the request of China and Pakistan to discuss India's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, diplomats said.

The lockdown and a near-complete communications blackout affecting about four million residents of the Kashmir Valley have been in place since August 4, just before a presidential order to subsume the Muslim-majority region into India's federal government by downgrading it from a state to a union territory.

Fire continues to be exchanged intermittently, Pakistan's armed forces said. "From the ramparts of the Red Fort, I extend my hearty greetings to Afghanistan on this occasion", he said.

Restrictions have been lifted in the Jammu region, where Hindus are in a majority, according to the government, but remain in place in the occupied Kashmir Valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule over decades.

He said, the world is eager to explore trade with India. "One Nation, One Constitution - this spirit has become a reality and India is proud of that".

More small vendors should accept digital payments, Modi said, returning to a theme first spotlighted in 2016, when his government ordered an overnight ban of high-value banknotes.

The number of Indians going overseas for holiday, particularly to the USA, the United Kingdom and China, has been steadily on the rise.

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He also launched a veiled attack on Pakistan a day after the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan threatened war against India amid Kashmir tensions.

Modi spoke from India's Mughal-era Red Fort in New Delhi as an unprecedented security lockdown kept people in Indian-administered Kashmir indoors for an 11th day.

While daily protests have erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir, Modi has received widespread public support in other parts of India. "So there is nothing new in it", Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said. "Now we are looking forward to making the nation a $5 trillion economy", Modi said.

The government plans to spend 3.5 trillion rupees ($49 billion) to bring piped water to households in coming years, Modi said Thursday, along with a 100 trillion rupee infrastructure program that was announced in the July budget. We added $1 trillion to the economy in just five years.

Adding that global footfall will increase if domestic tourism increases, the Prime Minister said, "Even if there are no hotels or infrastructure, I urge people to visit local destinations".

He also made a pitch for restructuring India's electoral system so that state and lower house of Parliament elections are held simultaneously rather than on separate timetables.

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