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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
India urges end to bloodshed
Vajpayee inspects guard of honour at Red Fort
Vajpayee urged an end to 50 years of conflict
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has marked the 56th anniversary of his country's independence by calling on Pakistan to work with India towards peace.

In an address on Friday, Mr Vajpayee said the traditional rivals should fight poverty instead of each other.

Earlier, nine Pakistani members of parliament crossed the border at Wagah - the only official crossing-point - to take part in a candlelit peace vigil with Indian counterparts.

Pakistan celebrated its own independence day on Thursday.

Last year's celebrations were overshadowed by threats of a third Indian-Pakistani war over Kashmir, following an attack on the Indian parliament.

We have been fighting for 50 years, how much more blood shall we spill?
Atal Behari Vajpayee
Indian Prime Minister
However, relations have improved in recent months, with ambassadors exchanged and a cross-border bus service resumed.

"On the occasion of our independence day anniversaries, I invite Pakistan to join us on the road for peace," Mr Vajpayee said in Delhi.

"We have been fighting for 50 years, how much more blood shall we spill?"

Good-natured

Mr Vajpayee spoke during heavy rain and from behind a three-sided bullet-proof cabin at the Red Fort.

Security was high amid fears of militant violence. Snipers were posted on buildings around the fort and a 300-kilometre (190-mile) area around Delhi was declared a no-fly zone for the morning.

Pakistani border guards hand sweets to Indian counterparts at Wagah crossing on independence day
Troops at the border exchanged sweets

Hundreds of invitees under umbrellas and schoolchildren in raincoats provided a colourful backdrop to Mr Vajpayee's speech.

He said people on both sides wanted an end to tension and war and also talked about the stability of his government and the economic progress it had made in the past few years.

The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava in Delhi says Mr Vajpayee was probably trying to score political points, keeping in view crucial state assembly elections later this year.

Bloody Thursday

On Thursday, Pakistan marked its own independence day with renewed calls for dialogue with India to settle the dispute over Kashmir.

Any improvement in relations with India hinged on that issue, Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali said.

The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says the celebrations were good-natured, with plenty of flag-waving and street-partying.

But there were posters accusing Pakistan's bigger neighbour of brutalising and torturing the people of Kashmir.

A general strike is being observed in Indian-administered Kashmir to mark Independence Day.

However, thousands of people turned up for the main government function in the capital, Srinagar, in defiance of the militants' call for a boycott.

In India's troubled north-eastern provinces there was a fresh upsurge of violence in the run-up to independence day.

On Thursday about 40 civilians and rebels were killed, as separatist groups in the region sought to enforce their call for a boycott of the celebrations.

Pakistan and India won independence from Britain at midnight on 14 August 1947.

Pakistan celebrates the event on the 14th and India on the 15th.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Paul Anderson
"The dispute over Kashmir is just as live now as it was 56 years ago"



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