Modi's Independence Day speech focuses on Kashmir, Balochistan

Tensions between India and Pakistan rose Monday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched on Pakistan's Balochistan province in his Independence Day speech, one day after Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain talked about India-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan celebrates its independence on August 14, and India marks the occasion one day later on August 15. British-ruled India gained independence in 1947 as two separate nations Pakistan and India.

The two nuclear-capable South Asian neighbours, with a history of troubled relations, often accuse each other of supporting rebels in each other's territories.

Pakistan's Balochistan province has seen unrest in recent years, while India-administered Kashmir counted at least 50 civilian deaths during violent anti-India protests since July.

"I want to speak a bit about the people in Balochistan, Gilgit, Baltistan, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir," Modi said from the Red Fort in New Delhi towards the end of his Independence Day speech.

In an unprecedented mention of another country's territory in an Independence Day speech by an Indian prime minister, Modi said Monday: "The world is watching. People of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me a lot in the past few days."

"It is a moment of pride that these people have looked out to India for support," Modi added. 

Strong anti-Indian sentiment is prevalent in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which has been gripped by a secessionist movement since the 1980s. Following the split of Pakistan and India in 1947, the disputed region was divided in two parts, one administered by India and the other by Pakistan.

The nuclear-capable South Asian neighbours have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed Kashmir region. Both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.

"The time has come for Pakistan to answer the world, on atrocities against people in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir," Modi said at a meeting Friday.

On Sunday, celebrating their own independence, Pakistani leaders showed support for freedom in India-administered Kashmir during their own Independence Day speeches.

"Pakistan cannot forget Kashmiris on this occasion," Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain said in his address to the nation. "It would continue supporting them in their just struggle for self-determination."

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also touched on the divided province in his Independence Day address Sunday, referring to the current anti-India protests there.   

"This Independence Day is also memorable due to the fact that nowadays the spirit of independence in (India)-occupied Kashmir is on its peak," Sharif had said adding that new generations of Kashmiris were raising the flag of freedom.

"I dedicate this year's 14th August to the freedom of Kashmir."

On Monday, one Indian paramilitary officer was killed and nine others including a policeman was wounded when suspected militants shot at them in Srinagar, capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state.

More than 50,000 people – militants, civilians and security forces - have been killed in India-administered Kashmir since militancy peaked in the late 1980s.

The disputed, troubled region is seen as a potentially dangerous conflagration spot with nuclear-capable India and Pakistan stationing large number of troops along their disputed border.

Last update: Mon, 15/08/2016 - 11:16
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