Pakistan calls for peace with India as it shows off its military might
Pakistanis are celebrating their National Day with a military parade, also attended by Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad, that’s showcasing short-and long-range missiles, tanks, jets, drones and other hardware.
Pakistan wants peace with India and they should focus on health and education, the Pakistani president said on Saturday during a parade to show off its military might following a tense standoff between the nuclear-armed neighbors over disputed Kashmir.
Conflict between the rivals erupted last month following a suicide bomb attack carried out by a Kashmiri man but claimed by Pakistan-based and proscribed militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad that killed over 40 paramilitary police in India-administered Kashmir.
“We do not believe in war and want to solve problems through dialogue,” President Arif Alvi said in his Pakistani Republic Day speech.
“Instead of war we should focus on education and health.”
Tensions and dogfights
Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight with Indian aircraft over Kashmir on February 27, a day after a raid by Indian jets on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan.
Pakistan rejects India’s claim of targeting militants and instead maintains several forest trees were damaged in the raid.
In their first such clash since their last war, in 1971, Pakistan downed an Indian plane and captured its pilot after he ejected over Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
The pilot was later released by Pakistan as a peace gesture.
The president said India had blamed Pakistan for the suicide-bomb attack without evidence, which he said was irresponsible.
Saturday’s military parade included an air show featuring the Pakistani-built JF-17 fighter jet. One of the aircraft shot down the Indian plane last month.
“Today’s parade is sending the message that we are a peaceful people but we will never be oblivious of our defence,” Alvi said.
Malaysia’s PM attends as chief guest
The parade was attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was invited to attend as the chief guest, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Khan said on Twitter earlier that he had received a message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his best wishes for Republic Day and calling for peace and regional cooperation.
“I welcome PM Modi’s message to our people,” Khan said.
“I believe it’s time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address and resolve all issues.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since British colonial rule ended in 1947. Both claim it in full and have fought two wars over the territory.
India has about 500,000 soldiers in India-administered Kashmir, where armed groups are fighting in a popular revolt for independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Clashes have raged in the restive mountainous region since the suicide bombing last month provoked tit-for-tat air strikes between India and Pakistan.