Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit reiterated on Sunday his country’s support for “Kashmir’s freedom”, testing the already strained ties between the two countries over the unrest in the Valley.
“Is saal ki jashn-e-azadi hum Kashmir ki azadi ke naam karte hain (we dedicate this year’s independence day celebrations to Kashmir’s freedom). We are confident that the sacrifices made by the people of Jammu and Kashmir would be successful,” Basit said in an address at the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi.
Pakistan celebrates its independence day on August 14, a day ahead of India’s.
“Struggle for independence will continue till Kashmir gets freedom...sacrifice of the people of Kashmir will not go in vain,” he said.
Basit’s statement comes a day after India rejected an out-of-turn proposal from Pakistan for talks on Kashmir. India said it would talk on “contemporary and relevant” issues including cross-border terrorism.
India has blamed Pakistan for the violent protests that have rocked Kashmir for more than a month after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was gunned down by security forces in Kashmir on July 8.
Fifty-eight people have died and thousands injured in clashes with security forces. Pakistan hailed Wani as a martyr and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said one day Kashmir would be a part of Pakistan.
Home minister Rajnath Singh had hit back, saying “there is no power in the world that can take Jammu and Kashmir away from us”.
At an all-party meeting called on Friday to discuss the Kashmir situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Pakistan and said its brutalities in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir should be exposed.
Pakistan has accused India of using excessive force to suppress Kashmir’s “freedom struggle”.
India had on August 9 summoned Basit and issued a demarche over his country’s continued support to cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, which was fuelling unrest in the Valley.
Pakistan always made efforts to “improve” its relationship with India, Basit said in his independence day address.
Early on Sunday, the Pakistan army resorted to unprovoked firing on Indian posts along the line of control (LoC) in Jammu’s Poonch sector. Indian troops hit back and the firing was on when reports last came in.
The provocation along the LoC was in contrast to the conciliatory mood along the Wagah border, where the goose-stepping Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers on Sunday exchanged sweets to mark the independence day celebrations.
Last year, Indian side decided against the ritual exchange following the terror attacks in Punjab and Kashmir.
In Islamabad, President Mamnoon Hussain, while addressing a gathering at a flag-hoisting ceremony, also raised the Kashmir issue, saying the country will continue to support Kashmiris in their bid for the right to self-determination.