SRINAGAR: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Pakistan on Tuesday of waging “proxy war” by sending militants to attack India and used a trip to the occupied Kashmir to stress that reconciliation between the nuclear-armed neighbours needs peace.
Making his second visit since his election triumph in May to the northern region Modi vowed to strengthen India’s armed forces. “The neighbouring country has lost the strength to fight a conventional war but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism,” Modi told officers and men from the army and air force in the Himalayan region of Leh. The far-right Hindu nationalist was elected by a landslide on promises to restore India’s economic and military prowess and meet the security challenge posed by a rising China and long-running tension with Pakistan.
Yet he surprised many observers by inviting South Asian leaders – including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - to his inauguration in a bid to bolster neglected regional ties. There are regular clashes on the Line of Control that divides Indian-occupied Kashmir and Azad Kashmir, however, and Modi has made clear that bilateral dialogue depends on the guns falling silent. Modi, whose speech to troops in Leh was televised, gave no details of Pakistan’s “proxy war”, but India has for years complained that Pakistan backs separatist militants who slip in from Azad Kashmir to stage attacks.
Both Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry and military declined to make any immediate comment on Modi’s speeches. Pakistan has said in the past it gives only political support to the people of occupied Kashmir who it says face human rights abuses at the hands of Indian troops. India denies this. India also wants faster prosecution of Pakistan-based militants accused of plotting the 2008 attacks on its financial capital, Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed. Pakistan says it is doing all it can to bring to book those against whom there is evidence.
In a second speaking stop, Modi went to Kargil, the scene of an undeclared war in 1999. “The patriotism of the people of Kargil inspires the people of India. I bow to this land and to the people,” Modi said, paying homage to his political mentor Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was premier during the Kargil conflict. In his government’s maiden budget last month, Modi boosted defence spending by 12 percent in 2014-15 over the previous year, when it was held at 2.04 trillion rupees ($33.4 billion).
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