India's Republic Day ceremonies pass peacefully

AP News
Posted: Jan 26, 2013 5:47 PM
India's Republic Day ceremonies pass peacefully

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indians on Saturday celebrated Republic Day without major incident except in disputed Kashmir, where separatists held a general strike to protest Indian rule.

Security was tight Saturday in Kashmir, especially after border clashes between Indian and Pakistani soldiers left five dead on both sides early this month, and in the insurgency-hit remote northeast.

Official observances were held in Kashmir despite a near-total shutdown caused by the general strike. However, In the northeast, people ignored another call for a general strike made by six insurgent groups.

Republic Day commemorates the day India's Constitution came into effect in 1950. Celebrations usually include military parades and displays of weaponry, cultural pageants and dances.

In New Delhi, more than 20,000 police and paramilitary personnel guarded a massive parade to the city's Red Fort.

The parade included a model of the Agni-V (Fire) missile that can carry nuclear weapons as far as Beijing.

India hailed its test of the missile in April last year as a significant step forward in its aspirations to become a regional and world power. It has a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) but it still requires a battery of tests and must clear other bureaucratic hurdles before it can be inducted into India's arsenal in a few years.

On Friday, India's president referred to the killing of two Indian soldiers, one of whom was beheaded, by Pakistani forces on Jan. 8 as "serious atrocities on the Line of Control on our troops." Pakistan denies India's charge.

The cease-fire line divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which both claim in entirety.

President Pranab Mukherjee cautioned Pakistan that sponsorship of terrorism through non-state actors was a matter of deep concern to India.

"We believe in peace on the border and are always ready to offer a hand in the hope of friendship. But this hand should not be taken for granted," Mukherjee said in his speech broadcast live on radio and television channels on Friday night on the eve of the national day.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming insurgent groups which have been fighting for Kashmir's merger with Pakistan or its independence since 1989. Pakistan denies India's claim.

More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from Britain in 1947.