India PM criticizes Pakistan over Kashmir

Aug. 15, 2002 at 2:02 AM
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NEW DELHI, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Thursday criticized neighboring Pakistan for what he called double standards on terrorism and vowed that no one will be allowed to disrupt the upcoming elections in Kashmir.

In an Independence Day speech from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, Vajpayee accused Islamabad of arming and training the Islamic rebels fighting for independence of Kashmir from India.

He said Islamabad was encouraging terrorism in Kashmir while on the other hand being part of the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. "This is double standards."

"Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir through terrorism as it did not succeed in wars," Vajpayee said in his 25-minute speech.

Reacting to Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's speech Wednesday in which he called elections in Kashmir a farce, Vajpayee said "our neighbors have the audacity to call our polls a farce. They should first take a look at their own backyards before trying to teach us lessons on how to hold free and fair polls."

"They have the guts to call our elections a farce when they are themselves trying to destabilize the elections," he said.

India had accused Pakistan of allegedly planning to disrupt the upcoming elections in the troubled Himalayan region.

India's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said Islamabad's attitude "was completely hostile, unhelpful and not designed to promote peace and stability in the region."

In his address to the nation on the eve of Pakistan's Independence Day, Musharraf said, "The struggle for self-determination by our Kashmiri brothers is a sacred trust with us that can never be compromised. The announcement by India to hold elections in Indian-occupied Kashmir is yet another effort to give a mask of legitimacy to India's illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir."

Both India and Pakistan have shared five decades of war, mistrust and hostility after gaining simultaneous independence from Britain in 1947. The two nations have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir.

Both nations claim Kashmir, the site of a 13-year-old armed struggle for independence. More than 37,000 people have been killed in the uprising. Rebels put the toll at 80,000.

Kashmir elections are slated to begin on Sept. 16 and end on Oct. 10.

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