INDIA HITS TERROR HUBS ACROSS LoC Pakistan calls it a lie, says it was border firing
India said on Thursday it carried out “surgical strikes” along its de-facto border with Pakistan, taking out several “launchpads”, or temporary shelters, militants were preparing to use to cross over into the country.
The strikes were India’s first direct military response to the attack on the Uri army base earlier this month that killed 18 Indian soldiers and was blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
The cross-border action came days after New Delhi reviewed its 56-year-old Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan and pulled out of the regional Saarc Summit in Islamabad as part of a wider diplomatic offensive to isolate its nettlesome neighbour.
The move could have wide domestic and security implications for India, where a narrative of a triumphant military campaign could influence a series of impending state polls. It could also trigger a possible escalation in tensions along the Line of Control (LoC), or the defacto border between India and Pakistan.
Thursday’s action is being seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi following through on his warning that those responsible for the Uri attack “would not go unpunished”. The army had also said it would avenge the attack, which killed 18 Indian soldiers on September 18, at a time and place of its choosing.
The “surgical strikes” could force militants across the LoC to shift their sanctuaries further back into Pakistani territory, bolstering the image of Indian forces as a capable striking power. Such an image could also help tamp down violence in Kashmir, where two months of street protests over the killing of militant Burhan Wani have left more than 85 people dead.
Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, chief of India’s military operations, told a press conference that the “launchpads” were targeted after a week of surveillance.
“Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them,” Singh said, without giving details of casualties. But sources said the army had informed the government that “35-40 people” — who could be terrorists or handlers or “guides” — had been killed. Soldiers guard the forward posts in Hamirpur area near Bhimber Gali, close to where Wednesday’s strikes took place.
Pakistan on Thursday denied that Indian troops had carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control, saying it had responded to “cross-border fire” from the Indian side that killed two soldiers and injured nine more.
Foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry summoned Indian envoy Gautam Bambawale on Thursday evening and rejected the “so-called surgical strikes” and condemned what he described as “unprovoked firing” by Indian forces on the LoC, state-run Radio Pakistan said.
Chaudhry said the Pakistan military “will continue to give a befitting response to any act of aggression”. He added that India had escalated tensions on the LoC to divert attention from the “grave human rights situation” in Kashmir.
Pakistan’s civil and military leadership reacted after India’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said Indian soldiers conducted surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads across the LoC, causing significant casualties.
The first reaction came from the Pakistan military’s media arm, which said in a strongly worded statement: “There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross-border fire initiated and conducted by India which is existential phenomenon.”
The military dismissed the surgical strikes as an “illusion”, while defence minister Khawaja Asif referred to them as “a lie”. The military also said “if there is a surgical strike on Pakistani soil, same will be strongly responded”.
Asif said Pakistani troops had responded to “small weapons fire in five sectors along the LoC” that killed two soldiers and injured nine others. “If India tries to do this again, we will respond forcefully,” said Asif, who had on Monday warned that Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons to annihilate India if the country’s survival was threatened.