New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday issued a strong warning to Pakistan, saying India was committed to peace but not at the cost of compromising the self-respect and unity of the country.

India celebrated the second anniversary of surgical strikes conducted two years ago by Indian soldiers against those who are involved in a proxy war through acts of terrorism, Modi said in his monthly radio programme Mann Ki Baat.

“People of India celebrated Parakram Parv to mark the second anniversary of surgical strikes conducted two years ago. Our soldiers had given a befitting reply to those who are involved in a proxy war against India through acts of terrorism. We believe in peace and we are committed to it, but it will not happen at the cost of the self-respect and unity of the country. India has always been committed to peace," Modi said.

Pakistan has rejected India’s announcement that its soldiers conducted raids across the Line of Control border in Kashmir on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in retaliation to a terrorist attack on a Uri military garrison in September 2016 in which 19 soldiers were killed.

The Prime Minister said that the second anniversary of surgical strikes were celebrated to make the people of India, especially the youth, aware of the capabilities of Indian soldiers to keep the country safe even at the cost of their own lives.

“Parakram Parv reminds the youth of the country about the glorious acts of courage of our armed forces which helps us safeguard the unity and integrity of the country. It is now clear that our soldiers will give a befitting reply to all those who are trying to disturb peace and end the atmosphere of development in the country," said Modi.

The Prime Minister also said that India is among the top contributors of peacekeeping troops of the United Nations (UN) and Indian soldiers were working for peace under the UN for several decades.

Modi’s reference to not compromising on self-respect for the sake of peace with Pakistan comes in the wake of India on 21 September calling off peace talks with Pakistan, a day after it had accepted the proposal. The talks were cancelled in protest against the killing of three Indian security personnel and the glorification of terrorist Burhan Wani by Pakistan through the issuance of postage stamps. Wani was killed by Indian troops in July 2016.

On Saturday, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swara made a similar point in her speech to the UN General Assembly session where she slammed Pakistan for being a “spawning ground for terrorism" and a violator of human rights. “Who can be a greater transgressor of human rights than a terrorist?" she asked. “Pakistan glorifies killers. It refuses to see the blood of innocents," she said.

Swaraj’s comments were made just hours after Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres and highlighted the alleged human rights violations by India in Kashmir, according to the Pakistan foreign office.

Swaraj also highlighted the various steps India had undertaken to restart a peace process with Pakistan since the Modi government took office in 2014. “We believe that talks are the only rational means to resolve the most complex of disputes. Talks with Pakistan have begun many times. If they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan’s behaviour," she said in her speech.

Qureshi in his UN address later said that Islamabad desired “a relationship with India based on sovereign equality and mutual respect. We seek resolution of disputes through a serious and comprehensive dialogue that covers all issues of concern." On the proposed peace talks with India, Qureshi said this was the third time India called off dialogue “on flimsy grounds." He also accused India of carrying out terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil. This drew a scathing retort from India with Eenam Gambhir, first secretary in India’s UN mission, describing Pakistan as the “host and patron" of 132 of the UN-designated terrorists and Qureshi’s UN speech as cast in “the mould of the old."

The spiralling tensions even before the “war of words" at the UN has caused analysts such as C. Raja Mohan, director, Institute for South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, to note that it had affected the ability of the two countries to engage with the larger global issues.

With US President Donald Trump threatening to pull out of the World Trading Organisation and constructing a new Middle East Security Alliance of Arab nations threatened by Iran, “India’s diplomatic engagements at the UN this year should be about crafting a new strategy to address these challenges," he said in a piece in the Indian Express newspaper last week. “The last thing India needs in New York is wrestling in the mud with Pakistan," he said.

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