India and Pakistan exchanged salvos instead of the usual Independence Day greetings, with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit calling for Kashmir’s freedom and India terming Islamabad’s policies on Kashmir “illegal” and “absurd”.

Pakistan High Commissioner remarks
Addressing a gathering at the Pakistan High Commission to mark the Independence Day of Pakistan, Mr. Basit said: “We dedicate this year’s Independence Day celebrations to freedom in Kashmir.”

Minister of State in PMO remarks
The government responded sharply. Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh said Pakistan should end its “illegal occupation” of PoK. 

If at all there is any outstanding issue with Pakistan, it is how to liberate the part of J&K which remains under the illegal occupation of Islamabad after 60-65 years of Independence and make it a part of J&K and part of the Indian Union. 

His response came soon after the Ministry of External Affairs termed Pakistan’s offer to send relief material to Kashmir as “absurd”.“India and others in the region have already received enough of Pakistan’s trademark exports — international terrorism, cross-border infiltrators, weapons, narcotics and fake currency,” the Ministry of External Affairs tweeted.

On Saturday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj termed counter-terror vital to Indian diplomacy. “Unlike in the past, we cannot agree that dialogue with the sponsors and supporters of terrorism should carry on without being linked to action in that regard,” she said, at an event attended by a large section of foreign diplomats serving in India.

Word of Caution
The daily war of words has also drawn a word of caution with veteran diplomats hinting that unless addressed carefully, the current state of affairs might jeopardise the political understanding built by the governments of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif.

Comment on Pakistan High Commissioner
Former High Commissioner to Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy, said: “Envoys are expected to serve as a channel of communication during times of crisis. But by speaking offensively against the country to which he is accredited, High Commissioner Basit has become an embarrassment to his government. Personally speaking, I did not make a single critical remark against Pakistan even in the height of the Kargil war in 1999 as Indian envoy because as envoys we are expected to maintain open communication channels.

It means India will hesitate approaching him to serve as envoy in times of crisis. In knowledgeable circles in Delhi, High Commissioner Basit is known to be close to Pakistan military and not to the civilian government.