India and Pakistan once again traded barbs on Thursday over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech.

Addressing the nation from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on August 15, the Indian premier expressed support for disgruntled residents of troubled Pakistani regions. Amid a spike in tensions between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours, Modi had said: “The people of Baluchistan, the people of Gilgit and the people of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir have thanked me in such a manner, from places that I have never been and never had a chance to meet, they have sent wishes to the people of India and thanked us. I am grateful to them.”

On Thursday, senior spokesperson of Pakistani Foreign Office Nafees Zakaria strongly criticised PM Modi for mentioning “Balochistan” in his speech, saying: “It is the violation of the UN Charter.. The Indian premier crossed the red line by talking about Balochistan.” The Pak official also alleged that India was involved in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi. According to Zakaria, Modi mentioned Balochistan mainly to cover up the Indian government’s human rights violations in Kashmir.

Zakaria urged the UN and the international community to ask India to fulfil its commitment by giving the right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as per UN Security Council resolutions. “Pakistan strongly condemns the continuing use of force by India and violation of human rights. The brutal use of force has killed at least 80 people and at least 100 have been blinded by use of pellet guns,” stressed Zakaria.

Hours after the Foreign Office spokesperson met the press in Islamabad, spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup hit back strongly by saying: “Pakistan recognises no red lines in conduct of its own diplomacy. Pakistan’s record of cross-border terrorism and infiltration were central to the problems in Balochistan. And this isn’t just India’s view. You can ask some of the other countries in the region too.”

Swarup told the media: “We need to understand the context in which the prime minister made the statements. Several people from Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan, wrote to the PM after his comments at the all-party meet on August 12, thanking him for flagging their cause. PM Modi was touched by these messages and thought of sharing it during his Independence Day speech.”

According to Swarup, it was not the first time when India issued a statement on Balochistan. New Delhi had made such remarks in the past and would do so in future, if necessary, he added.

The senior Indian official once again asked Pakistan to discuss the “terror” issue with India and help maintain peace and stability in the region. Swarup made clear that New Delhi would never allow Islamabad to encourage terrorists to involve in anti-India activities and create trouble in Kashmir.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog – Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]