Kashmir was the focus on both sides of the border on Thursday as Pakistan celebrated its Independence Day and India prepared to mark the same a day later.
In his address to the nation, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the state was the “main source of tension” between the neighbours, while in Srinagar, the tricolour fluttered with gusto ahead of its formal hoisting on Independence Day. The flag was installed on the orders of civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Tuesday, fulfilling a long-held wish of the NDA government.
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“We want peaceful resolution of Kashmir... so that by removing this main source of tension, Pakistan and India can find new ways to promote their relations,” Sharif said Wednesday midnight. Taking this a step further, the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Basit, said Islamabad extends “full diplomatic and moral support” to the “legitimate struggle” of Kashmiris.
In Srinagar, Raju gave the BJP a reason to smile with the installation of a 105-ft, all-weather tricolour at the airport. It was installed shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi wound up his visit to Kargil and Ladakh, and will be formally commissioned on Friday.
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This has been an idea close to the BJP's heart ever since MM Joshi, accompanied by Modi, unfurled the tricolour in Lal Chowk at the height of militancy in 1992. Then in 2011, BJP Yuva Morcha chief Anurag Thakur had launched the Bharat Ekta Yatra from Kolkata to Srinagar to hoist the flag in the J&K capital but was stopped at the state's border. The BJP’s Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj had also joined the procession but were detained and sent back to Delhi.
The 20ft x 30ft flag is visible from more than a kilometre away and can be seen by those landing there. Official sources said the inspiration to install it came to Raju during his visit to Srinagar last month when he noticed a “very small” flag virtually hidden by banners. He subsequently instructed the Airports Authority of India to install a larger flag at Srinagar as well as in other airports.
“We have got excellent feedback from the local people since it was installed. This will inculcate patriotism among the youth,” said Srinagar airport director KS Rao.
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Meanwhile, the latest provocation from Pakistan comes close on the heels of a verbal exchange between the neighbours over PM Modi’s charge of Islamabad continuing a “proxy war of terrorism” against India. The Pakistani side Islamabad had dubbed his comments “baseless rhetoric”, prompting a warning from Delhi that its “tool kit” for dealing with terrorism was not restricted.
It also coincides with an escalation in ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops and leads up to foreign secretary-level talks later this month.
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(Inputs from agencies)