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Archive for August 15th, 2007

Yahoo!NEWS: India celebrates 60th anniversary…

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on August 15, 2007

by Elizabeth Roche Wed Aug 15, 9:41 AM ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India celebrated six decades as an independent nation, as the prime minister warned against over-confidence from the rising power’s booming economy.

In a speech from the ramparts of the capital’s 17th-century Red Fort, Prime Minister Manmohan Sing said democracy was India’s greatest achievement but warned of tough challenges ahead for the country.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) arrives at the Red Fort. India celebrated six decades… (AFP Photo) AFP (Logo)
AFP Photo:
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) arrives
at the Red Fort. India celebrated six decades…

 

He said India, facing insurgencies from disputed Kashmir to the troubled state of Assam, would deliver strong action against “hatred and extremism” in the nation.

“The success of a secular democracy in a nation of a billion people with such diversity is viewed with admiration,” he said from behind a bullet-proof shield and a tight security cordon.

“The best is yet to come,” Singh predicted, riding a wave of optimism that India is on the threshold of becoming a superpower.

“However, we must not be over-confident,” he said. “We have a long a march ahead.”

He urged Indians to unite against “anti-democratic, anti-social and anti-national forces.”

The celebrations came a day after neighbouring Pakistan, carved out of India in 1947 at the end of British colonial rule, marked its own independence.

Helicopters patrolled the skies and sharpshooters were posted on rooftops of nearby buildings as Singh unfurled the national flag.

Thousands of school children sang patriotic songs to mark the occassion, attended by several of Singh’s cabinet ministers.

Despite the economy growing by nine percent, the prime minister pointed to poverty, the “national shame” of malnutrition, unemployment, agrarian strife, civil unrest and sectarian divide.

“We need at least a decade of hard work and of sustained growth to realise our dreams. We have to bridge the many divides in our society and work with a unity of purpose,” Singh said.

To bolster the ailing agriculture sector, he confirmed six billion dollars would be invested in agriculture.

India’s rain-dependent agriculture sector is growing at less than a quarter the pace of the overall economy. It contributes a fifth of economic output and provides a livelihood for two-thirds of the population.

Singh also called for a revolution in education and pledged to set up a pension scheme and improve health care. Some 6,000 new schools would be set up, he said.

“Poverty eradication is now a feasible goal,” Singh said, adding that rapid industrialisation was the most effective means to create new jobs.

Some of his views were echoed by young urban Indians in an opinion poll for The Hindustan Times.

Some 52 percent of the 1,247 respondents between the ages of 16-25 said they were proud of India’s democracy.

“Young and rocking — this is the popular image of India as it begins celebrating its 60th birthday as a free nation,” the daily said in an editorial.

The Times of India splashed on its front page that India was “60 and getting sexier.”

“There’s plenty to look forward to. The next 60 years hopefully will be better than the last,” the daily said.

The anniversary was marked by tight security with aircraft, combat troops and tens of thousands of security forces deployed after threats by Al-Qaeda and separatist rebels.

In the capital, some 70,000 police and paramilitary troops were on duty.

In restive Kashmir, a strike called by the state’s separatist alliance cleared the streets of the summer capital Srinagar and shut all shops and businesses.

Kashmiri militants mark independence as a “black day”. Britain’s withdrawal from the sub-continent led to the partition of India, the birth of Pakistan and the division of Kashmir between them.

Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad urged militants to shun violence “for peace and prosperity” in the Himalayan state.

Police said troops Tuesday shot dead two militants in northern Kashmir’s Bandipora town, a day after a grenade killed three people and wounded 19 in the market there.

Police also defused a bomb attached to an Indian flag in southern Banihal town.

Four explosions rocked northeastern Assam state on Wednesday, police said but no one was reported hurt. A wave of separatist attacks in Assam has left 36 people dead in the past week.

In parts of eastern India, celebrations were cancelled because of threats from Maoist rebels, who hoisted black flags in protest.

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India and Pakistan at crossroads as they celebrate 60 years of independence

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on August 15, 2007

· Parades accompanied by tight security
· 500,000 march for peace on both sides of border

Randeep Ramesh, South Asia correspondent
Wednesday August 15, 2007
The Guardian

Girls paint their faces in the colours of the Pakistani and Indian national flags as part of independence day celebrations in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad

Girls paint their faces in the colours of the Pakistani and Indian national flags
as part of independence day celebrations in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

Pakistan and India began celebrating 60 years as independent nations yesterday with a series of parades, gun salutes and speeches that sees both nations at crucial crossroads in their histories.In Pakistan, a Muslim nation of 160 million people, cannons boomed as dawn broke on the 60th anniversary and the country’s green and white flag was raised amid a deep political crisis and bloody militant violence. Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, last week toyed with imposing emergency rule.

Across the border, where celebrations will take place today, the story could not be more different. After decades of sloth, India, with a 1 billion-strong population, is poised to regain its pre-colonial glory as a great economic power and has had fair and free elections for decades.

Both countries have been ravaged by terrorism and security has been tightened in major cities. In Pakistan yesterday fireworks were banned and public gatherings were being discouraged. Normally independence day is celebrated with wild public abandon in Pakistan.

In India, Delhi’s ring road was shut to traffic in the evening and the historic Red Fort, where the prime minister traditionally appears with political leaders for an annual speech, was last night ringed by 10,000 police officers.

The two nations, the first colonies to break free of British rule after the second world war, technically became independent on the stroke of midnight between August 14 and 15 1947. But because the last viceroy of British India did not arrive in India from Pakistan until August 15, the two countries celebrate a day apart.

Analysts say celebrations were likely to be more frenzied in India today.

Although both nations inherited British legal and parliamentary traditions, Pakistan and India produced widely diverging histories. Pakistan has lurched between corrupt civilian governments and military rule, embedding cynicism in the electorate. India has regularly held elections, producing governments of differing political complexions.

“We are essentially the same people, same high-voltage flashes of emotions, same generosity but one thing separates us: democracy,” said MJ Akbar, editor-in-chief of India’s Asian Age newspaper.

Akbar said that despite the burden of poverty and the curse of religious and caste strife, “India’s democracy has survived the whole range of Himalayan problems”. He added: “That cannot be said of Pakistan.”

Both countries were born amid bloodshed. The division of British India into a Muslim state and a vast Hindu-majority nation led to sectarian riots and ultimately the deaths of 1 million people.

The killings marked the beginning of a hostile relationship between the south Asian countries. After just a quarter of a century, they had fought three wars. By 1971, two had become three with the creation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan.

The 50th anniversary came a year before tit-for-tat nuclear tests that many feared presaged more bloodshed. But a decade on, the rivalry looks as if it is finally mellowing. There is even a chance that a diplomatic solution can be found over Kashmir, over which Pakistan and India last fought in 1999.

Hajrah Mumtaz, an editor at Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, which is running a series of polls with the Indian Express, said: “There’s a lot of media exchange between the two countries now and with the internet we can see what each other is thinking and saying. I think, too, we are dealing with the fourth generation after partition and some of the reasons for the animosity tend to dim.”

On the border in Punjab last night, a remarkable display of peace and friendship took place when 500,000 people gathered to call for an end to hostilities. Fifteen Pakistani MPs were due to attend the candlelit march, the first of which was started 14 years ago by veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayar.

“When we started it was just 12 people. Now it is half a million. That is proof of goodwill between us,” said Nayar, who was born in Sialkot city, Pakistan, 81 years ago. “I think people are beginning to realise that the cycle of revenge has got to end and we need to have a more normal relationship.”

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