Amid the rising number of ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the International Border (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today accused Islamabad of waging a proxy war in the state but said that the neighbouring country will be given a befitting reply.
"Pakistan has always been trying to occupy Jammu and Kashmir, and we consider this land (Jammu and Kashmir) and its people as our integral part. After facing defeat in face-to-face battles, Pakistan is now engaging in a proxy war on this paradise on the earth. They also targeted others parts of the country,” Parikkar, who was on a two-day visit to Kashmir, said at a function here.
He added that “our soldiers are fighting this battle professionally."
The Defence Minister, accompanied by Army Chief General Dalbir Singh, was here to pay homage to Major Somnath Sharma, the first Param Vir Chakra awardee of independent India and other soldiers who laid down their lives while pushing back an offensive by Pakistani raiders to control Srinagar Airport in 1947.
"On this occasion, let us renew the pledge to give fitting reply to the proxy war and end terrorism here," Parikkar said addressing a gathering of ex-servicemen.
The Defence Minister said Pakistan was trying to mislead its own people and the people of Kashmir.
"There is a popularly elected government here which is for the benefit of the Kashmiri people and take them on the path of development".
He said misguided youth are today hitting at Kashmiriyat and destorying the future of Kashmiri children by burning down schools.
"The schools are important as the knowledge gained there will stay with the children forever. Wealth can end but not knowledge," he said.
Parikkar said he has told the army officers to look into the issue, but the pressure should also come from the villages for saving the schools.
"For the last four months, many anti-social elements sponsored by Pakistan--who have nothing to do with the peace-loving people of Kashmir--have dealt a blow to the economy of Kashmir," he said.
Parrikar said the state had tremendous economic potential, especially in Information Technology and tourism sectors.
"Yesterday, I went to Uri and I saw the tin-roofs over the houses. This state has the economic potential that these tin-roofs can be gold-plated if not made of gold. For that we need peace. There is huge potential in IT and tourism.
"The natural beauty of Kashmir is unparalleled, though as a Goan, I will always say Goa is a little more beuatiful," he added.
He appealed to people of Jammu and Kashmir to give up the path of violence and contribute in nation building process.
Paying tributes to Major Somnath and other soldiers, Parrikar said it is a matter of pride that he has been able to come to Budgam.
"Here our brave soldiers fought valiantly and made thesupreme sacrifice. I am excited to see such a large number of ex-servicemen from the valley here who have fought shoulder-to -shoulder with their countrymen for upholding the unity and integrity of the country.
"Today we are paying homage to Major Somnath Sharma, the first Param Vir Chakra awardee, and other soldiers who attained martyrdom in 1947. I pay tributes on behalf of entire nation to the martyrs. It is because of the sacrifices of these martyrs and others after them that we are able to hold our heads high with pride and live in this paradise on earth," he said.
Tension along the IB and LoC escalated since the surgical strikes by army targeting terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on September 29.
There have been more that 60 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the LoC and IB in the state since surgical strikes against terror launch pads by the Indian Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
(With PTI inputs)