India celebrates 'victory' in 1965 war with Pakistan

Indian soldiers leave after a ceremony to honor soldiers killed in action on occasion of 50th anniversary of India"s win over Pakistan in the war of 1965, at the India Gate war memorial in New Delhi, India, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Image copyright AP
Image caption India kicked off the celebrations with a ceremony to honour the soldiers killed during the war

India has begun more than three weeks of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of what it claims was victory in the 1965 war with Pakistan.

President Pranab Mukherjee laid a wreath at the martyr's memorial at Delhi's India Gate monument on Friday.

Meanwhile, eight civilians have been reportedly killed as India and Pakistan exchanged fire in the Kashmir region.

Kashmir, claimed by both countries in its entirety, has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years.

Major Waheed Bukhari, a spokesman for Pakistani Rangers, told Reuters news agency that five civilians had been killed and 48 others treated for injuries after firing from the Indian side in the Sialkot area.

And across the border, India's Border Security Force said three civilians had died and 22 were wounded in firing across the border in the Jammu region.

Both said the other side had opened fire first, and their accounts could not be independently verified.

The South Asian rivals have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region.

'Victory carnival'

The 1965 conflict began when Pakistan sent up to 30,000 troops into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian soldiers invaded Pakistan in retaliation.

Over the years, both sides have claimed victory. Pakistan celebrates 6 September every year as "Defence of Pakistan Day" with a 21-gun salute and a victory parade. Indians meanwhile believe that their forces had the clear upper hand in the war.

The war was fought on the western front where for over three weeks more than 100,000 Indian soldiers fought against Pakistan's 60,000 troops.

The fighting killed more than 8,000 men, most of them Pakistanis.

On Friday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi "praised the courage & bravery of our Armed Forces" on Twitter:

Image copyright Tweet

The celebrations began on 28 August, the day Indian troops captured the strategic Haji Pir Pass in Pakistan.

They will go on until 22 September - the day India and Pakistan agreed to a UN-sponsored ceasefire.

The main event - a "victory carnival" with a show of military might, song and dance - is planned for 20 September on Rajpath - the wide boulevard in the city centre where the annual Republic Day parade is held and where India recently organised a record-breaking yoga event.

Image copyright Courtesy:
Image caption The celebrations began on 28 August, the day Indian troops captured the strategic Haji Pir Pass

The celebrations will also include seminars, photo exhibitions and a concert.

Many Indians support Mr Modi's decision to hold the commemorative events - but critics say holding a carnival is in bad taste.

The 1965 war was one of four between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947.

More on this story