Pakistan to release Indian prisoners in Independence Day gesture
Pakistan will release 30 Indian prisoners from its jails as a humanitarian gesture to mark the country's independence day, the Foreign Ministry announced on Monday. The announcement came amid a tense calm at the shared border between the nuclear-armed neighbours after years of deadly clashes in the disputed Himalayan valley of Kashmir.
Pakistan will celebrate its independence day on Tuesday, to mark the creation of the country on 14 August 1947.
Indian sub-continent: 70 years of independent rule
This month while Pakistan marked its independence, its twin India also celebrated its freedom from British rule. Tensions between the two, however, are running high and ties continue to be scarred by mutual suspicion. By Srinivas Mazumdaru
Time to celebrate: millions of people across India marked the country's liberation from the British Raj. The celebrations included dances, parades and ceremonies on all levels of society. India became independent on August 15, 1947 – one day after Pakistan declared its independence
From ″swaraj″ to ″suraj″: in keeping with tradition, Indian PM Narendra Modi hoisted the national flag and addressed the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort, a famous 17th-century monument in the capital New Delhi. Wearing a short-sleeved white kurta and a red, pink and yellow turban, the leader said the world's largest democracy was moving from "swaraj," or self rule in Hindi, to "suraj," or good governance
Outlining successes: the premier used the speech to boast about the achievements of his government, citing progress in various areas such as the economy, financial inclusion, health and rural development. Modi also said his government had built over 20 million toilets and brought electricity to thousands of villages in the world's second most populous nation
Tackling issues: all is not well in India, however, with growing fears over rising intolerance and a lack of social harmony, particularly after recent attacks on low-caste Dalits and Muslims by extremists. Stressing that a strong nation cannot be built without a strong society which is based on social justice, Modi advocated a "tough and sensitive" approach to tackle problems like ″castism″ or ″untouchability″
Attacks: as the celebrations were underway, Indian-administered Kashmir witnessed a new series of gun battles when suspected militants attacked a police station in the territory. It resulted in the killing of at least one paramilitary soldier and four suspected rebels. Several government troops were also wounded
Gripped by violence: Kashmir has seen violent protests in recent weeks following the killing of a militant commander by Indian security forces. At least 54 people have so far been killed and thousands hurt in clashes with the government troops. In his speech, however, PM Modi made no mention of the situation in Kashmir
Chiding Pakistan: nevertheless, the Indian prime minister made a general appeal for an end to violence, underlining that India "will never tolerate terrorism." Furthermore, he criticised Pakistan, accusing it of supporting terrorism
An unprecedented move: Modi also alluded to Pakistan's Balochistan province and the part of Kashmir under Islamabad's control. Pakistan's Balochistan province has seen unrest in recent years. "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 said
Highlighting Kashmir: Modi's remarks come after Pakistan dedicated its Independence Day this year to highlight the Kashmir conflict, with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain talking about India-administered Kashmir in his address a day earlier. The Kashmir dispute continues to beset the relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought two of their three wars since independence over the territory
Talks soon? After Modi's speech, Pakistan formally invited India for talks on the disputed Himalayan region, stating that it is an "international obligation" on the part of both the countries to resolve the dispute. As yet it is unclear how the Indian government will respond to this invitation
The South Asian rivals often detain each other citizens, most of whom have crossed the long, poorly guarded border by accident. Nearly 90 percent of the prisoners are fishermen who inadvertently sailed across two countries' territorial waters in the Arabian Sea. These prisoners sometimes languish in jails for years in a hostile environment under what humanitarians from both countries describe as inhumane condition.
At least 27 prisoners being released by Pakistan later on Monday are fishermen, the ministry said in a statement. "This is in line with our consistent policy of not politicising humanitarian issues," the statement added, "It is our hope that the Indian side will also reciprocate in a similar manner." Hundreds of civilians and soldiers have been killed on both sides in border clashes since 2013. Pakistan and Indian have fought three wars - and came to the brink of a fourth one - since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947. (dpa)