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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
India hits out at Pakistan
Vajpayee reviews the guard at the Red Fort
Mr Vajpayee reviews an honour guard at the Red Fort
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has accused Pakistan of wrecking hopes of peace between the two countries by refusing to budge on Kashmir.

In a speech marking 54 years of India's independence, Mr Vajpayee called on Pakistan to solve the long-running dispute over the divided region peacefully.

Pakistan should stop believing it can gain Kashmir through terrorism

Atal Behari Vajpayee
He said Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf's "one-point agenda" on the issue had been to blame for the failure of the two men's' summit in July.

"Pakistan couldn't take Kashmir through wars. There should be no illusion that it can get it through supporting terrorism," Mr Vajpayee said.

"I told Musharraf we have been fighting for 50 years. How long can we go on like this?"

India is mistaken if it thinks use of brute force can crush freedom struggle in Kashmir

Syed Salahuddin, Kashmir militant leader

Mr Vajpayee's speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi was made amid some of the tightest security ever seen for an independence day.

He spoke from behind a bullet proof screen, with air force helicopters buzzing overhead and police marksmen on every rooftop, after separatist militia groups had threatened to disrupt proceedings.

More than 70,000 security personnel were deployed in the Indian capital and borders with neighbouring states were sealed.

'Indigneous struggle'

Pakistan denies accusations it supports terrorism, saying it provides only moral and diplomatic support to an indigenous struggle for self-determination.

A soldier frisks bus passengers in Assam
Security is tight across India

The leader of a key Kashmiri militant party criticised Mr Vajpayee's speech.

"India is mistaken if it thinks use of brute force can crush freedom struggle in Kashmir," said Syed Salahuddin, leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

"The struggle in Kashmir is purely indigenous. Pakistan only extends political, diplomatic and moral support to us and Indian accusations against Islamabad are aimed at deceiving the international community," he said.

Hours after Mr Vajpayee's speech, India's Defence Ministry said at least four Hindu villagers had been gunned down in Kashmir's southern Udhampur district late on Tuesday.

Two Muslims who tried to carry away the bodies were also killed.

Three wars

India, which is mostly Hindu, and predominantly Muslim Pakistan came into being at midnight on 15 August 1947 when the former British colony was partitioned.

Indian sentry in Kashmir
Kashmir remains a huge stumbling block
Soon after, the two countries went to war over Kashmir, the first of their three wars since independence.

July's summit in the Indian city of Agra was the first in two years, but ended without even a joint declaration.

Mr Vajpayee said India and Pakistan should not be fighting one another, but should jointly fight poverty.

"Both countries spend scarce resources on wars and war preparations. This should have been spent on development," he said.

The prime minister went on to talk about the growing strength of India's economy.

He said he was proud that India was one of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world.

With an eye no doubt on forthcoming assembly elections he promised extra investment in small businesses and in agriculture.

And he said the struggle against corruption at every level of Indian society would continue.

The BBC's Adam Mynott
"He spoke of a prosperous nation with a bright future"
See also:

15 Aug 01 | Media reports
Vajpayee's independence speech: excerpts
15 Aug 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Indian independence day
15 Aug 01 | South Asia
Kashmir independence day attack
06 Jul 01 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Troubled relations
17 Jul 01 | South Asia
Q & A: What next after Agra?
17 Jul 01 | South Asia
Media reflects India-Pakistan divide
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