In remarks that will amplify the tension with India, Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif today pledged to continue "diplomatic and moral support to the freedom movement" in Kashmir, whose people he described as "our lifeline."
"The true solution for this struggle for self-determination resides not in raining bullets upon the defenceless Kashmiri people but in heeding to their voice and respecting their aspirations," said Pakistan's army chief on the country's observation of Defence Day.
After 22-year-old terrorist Burhan Wani was shot dead in July, the Kashmir Valley plunged into chaos and a relentless cycle of violence that lasted over a month, with huge mobs targeting security forces and police stations and bases in anger. Pakistan declared Wani a martyr and said the clashes, which killed nearly 70 people and injured over 10,000, were a new attempt by the people of Kashmir to break free from India.
Delhi has blamed Pakistan for funding, seeding and aggravating the violence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an aggressive comeback to Pakistan's accusation of human rights atrocities in Kashmir by referring, in his Independence Day speech, to Balochistan, the large restive province that is fighting for independence from Pakistan.
Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit was summoned today in Delhi by the government over the last-minute cancellation yesterday of an event in Karachi where Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale was to speak. The cancellation was intended as a rebuff for his criticism of Pakistan's interference in Kashmir.
General Raheel warned, "We know well how to abide by bonds of friendship and how to avenge upon our enemies", making an obvious reference to India. In contrast, he said, "the greatest example of a relationship based on mutual respect and principle of equality in the region is the Pak-China friendship."