The threats thrown up by the global economic crisis, regional volatility and the rise of terrorism are "nowhere near as daunting" as the problems the world's largest democracy faces at home, Singh told a leadership summit in New Delhi.
"If we can get our house in order, if we can liberate each and every citizen from the tyranny of poverty, ignorance and disease, there is no external challenge we cannot overcome," he said.
Acknowledging the pressure on his government to accelerate economic reforms following its unexpectedly clear-cut election victory in May, Singh said he was committed to annual growth rates of between nine and 10 percent.
But he insisted that the larger task was to balance economic expansion with reforms and investment in education, health and poverty alleviation.
Those reforms, while guided by the federal government, could only be properly enacted at state level, the prime minister said, appealing for an end to the traditional idea of government from the centre.
"No agenda for building a new India can any longer be imposed from Delhi," he said.
"India lives in states. The future of our country depends therefore a great deal on the quality of political leadership at the state and local level.
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