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India Celebrates Republic Day; Gunfire Erupts Along Kashmir Border


India is celebrating its 61st Republic Day under heightened security due to fears of militant attacks.

At least 15,000 paramilitary soldiers were deployed in and around the capital of New Delhi Tuesday to ensure safety along the route of the annual Republic Day parade.

India celebrates the holiday every year to mark the adoption of its constitution and its transition to a republic (both on January 26, 1950). But security measures were increased this year due to threats of possible terror attacks by Islamic militants.

In Indian Kashmir, officials said they blocked mobile phone service for much of the day in order to prevent militants from using mobile phones to trigger a bomb.

Meanwhile, Indian security forces said they exchanged heavy gunfire with Pakistani forces along the Line of Control separating Indian Kashmir from Pakistan Tuesday.

Indian officials said the gunfire erupted at the Kanachak outpost (near Akhnoor) after Pakistani forces tried to help militants infiltrate the country.

It is the latest in a series of border skirmishes in recent weeks that has raised tensions between the two rival countries that both claim sovereignty over all of Kashmir.

Islamist militants in Indian Kashmir have been fighting since 1989 for independence from India or a merger with Pakistan. India and Pakistan have also fought two wars over the region.

Last week, the Indian government put all of the country's airports on high alert amid reports that al-Qaida-linked militants planned to hijack a plane.

U.S. President Barack Obama has congratulated the people of India on Republic Day.

A White House statement said the United States and India have a strong shared belief in liberty, pluralism and religious tolerance.

VOA Correspondent from Kolkata, Paramashish Ghosh Roy has more on the Indian Republic Day celebration.

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