Pak­istan’s out­go­ing mil­i­tary chief sends warn­ing to In­dia


SRI­NA­GAR: Sep­a­ratists fight­ing against In­dian rule in Kash­mir stormed an In­dian mil­i­tary base Tues­day, trig­ger­ing a fierce gun­bat­tle that left seven sol­diers and a mil­i­tant dead, of­fi­cials said.

At the same time in another part of Kash­mir, In­dian forces came across three sus­pected mil­i­tants who had al­legedly crossed the bor­der from Pak­istan into In­dia, touch­ing off another ex­change of fire in which all three were killed, para­mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

The re­newed vi­o­lence fol­lowed a five-day lull in fight­ing be­tween In­dian and Pak­istani troops, who have been ex­chang­ing heavy mor­tar and ar­tillery fire for months across the de facto bor­der that di­vides Kash­mir be­tween the two na­tions.

In­dia has ac­cused Pak­istan of help­ing anti-In­dia mil­i­tants stage deadly at­tacks on its mil­i­tary com­pounds — an al­le­ga­tion Pak­istan de­nies.

Early Tues­day, up to four mil­i­tants dis­guised in po­lice uni­forms opened fire on the mil­i­tary camp in Na­grota, a town on the main high­way con­nect­ing Kash­mir’s two main cities of Sri­na­gar and Jammu, ac­cord­ing to se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer K. Ra­jen­dra.

The mil­i­tants then stormed the base and made their way to an area of the com­pound stor­ing ar­tillery, lob­bing grenades and draw­ing troops into ex­chang­ing fire, said another po­lice of­fi­cer, S.P. Vaid.

7 In­dian sol­diers, in­clud­ing two of­fi­cers, and one mil­i­tant were killed in the fight­ing, a po­lice of­fi­cer said on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of depart­ment pol­icy. The of­fi­cer said at least three other sol­diers were wounded in the at­tack.

With the mil­i­tants hid­ing within the com­pound, the gun­bat­tle was still rag­ing in­side.

Army of­fi­cials de­scribed the mil­i­tants as “fi­day­een,” a term for mil­i­tants ready to sac­ri­fice their lives for a cause.

No other de­tails were im­me­di­ately avail­able. Au­thor­i­ties closed the Sri­na­gar-Jammu high­way and or­dered nearby schools to close as the fight­ing raged in Na­grota.

The at­tack was the most au­da­cious on an In­dian mil­i­tary base since a Sept. 18 as­sault on an army base in the town of Uri.

That at­tack left 19 In­dian sol­diers and four sus­pected mil­i­tants dead, and es­ca­lated ten­sions be­tween nuclear-armed In­dia and Pak­istan.

In­dia ac­cused Pak­istan of help­ing those mil­i­tants with weapons, train­ing and lo­gis­tics, and said it sent troops across the bor­der to launch “sur­gi­cal strikes” against mil­i­tants in the Pak­istan­con­trolled part of Kash­mir.

Mean­while, Pak­istan’s out­go­ing army chief is­sued a stern warn­ing to In­dia over vi­o­lence in Kash­mir on Tues­day as he handed over com­mand, say­ing pa­tience should not be mis­taken for weak­ness.

“I want to make it clear to In­dia, that tak­ing our pol­icy of pa­tience (in Kash­mir) as a sign of any kind of weak­ness will prove to be dan­ger­ous to it,” said Gen. Ra­heel Sharif, who handed over the reins to Gen. Qa­mar Javed Ba­jwa at a cer­e­mony full of mil­i­tary pomp.

“Un­for­tu­nately in re­cent months, the ris­ing state ter­ror­ism in Kash­mir and In­dia’s ag­gres­sive steps have put re­gional peace at risk,” added Sharif, who many viewed as the most pow­er­ful man in Pak­istan in his role as army chief.

In his first com­ments af­ter as­sum­ing charge of the army, Gen. Ba­jwa sig­naled that the on­go­ing ten­sions with In­dia along their fron­tier will ease soon.

“The sit­u­a­tion at the Line of Con­trol will hope­fully im­prove soon,” he told reporters af­ter the change of com­mand cer­e­mony.

Ba­jwa was fourth in se­nior­ity on a list of five army gen­er­als sent to Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif, and had been lit­tle dis­cussed un­til picked him. Ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion, the prime min­is­ter can pick any of­fi­cer from the list for­warded to him by the De­fense Min­istry.

The change in com­mand took place when Gen. Sharif, pub­licly handed over his “Malacca stick” to his suc­ces­sor at a cer­e­mony that was wit­nessed by civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers, as well as diplo­mats.

The Malacca ba­ton, which is made of bam­boo pro­duced in Sin­ga­pore, is part of the Pak­istan Army uni­form.

The change in com­mand has taken place this way start­ing in the Bri­tish colo­nial days. Pak­istan be­came in­de­pen­dent in 1947 when Bri­tain gave in­de­pen­dence to Pak­istan and In­dia, although the mil­i­tary has ruled this Is­lamic na­tion for nearly half of the time since then.

An In­dian sol­dier stands guard dur­ing a gun­bat­tle with armed mil­i­tants at an army base at Na­grota on Tues­day. (AFP)

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