Pakistan's powerful Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif has described Kashmir as the "jugular vein" of his country, saying the issue should be resolved in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris and in line with UNSC resolutions for lasting peace in the region.
Addressing a ceremony to mark the Martyrs' Day at army headquarters in Rawalpindi, Sharif yesterday claimed Kashmir was an internationally recognised dispute.
"Matchless sacrifices offered by Kashmiris will not go in vain," he said.
Gen Sharif, who just returned from an official trip to Saudi Arabia, termed Kashmir as a "jugular vein" of Pakistan.
He called for resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Kashmiris and in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The resolution of the Kashmir issue is "indispensable" for lasting peace in the region, he said.
"Pakistan Army is in favour of peace but is always ready to respond to any aggression in befitting manner," he said.
Pakistan has often described Kashmir as the "jugular vein" but this is the first time Gen Sharif has used the term or spoken about Kashmir since taking over late last year.
Talking about domestic issues, he said that Pakistan Army believes in strengthening of democracy, supremacy of constitution and rule of law.
The army chief lauded the media and said: "We believe in freedom of media and responsible journalism".
His comments came amid a controversy surrounding the attack on leading Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir and subsequent move by the Defence Ministry seeking cancellation of the broadcasting licence of the channel.
Sharif said army supports every effort for elimination of terrorism and restoration of peace in the country.
The ceremony was attended by a large number of dignitaries, including Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and former Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.