India conducts ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistan-held territory: military spokesman
NEW DELHI // India said its troops crossed the Line of Control in Kashmir on Thursday to conduct what it described as “surgical strikes” on suspected terrorist bases in Pakistan-held territory, a claim Islamabad rejected.
The incident marked the first time that India has publicly declared a strike across its de facto border with Pakistan, which has been in place since 1972.
Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh said India had “very specific and credible information” that “some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads” close to the Line of Control on the Pakistani side.
The strikes were conducted to prevent infiltration by militants across the Line of Control into Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Tensions have been brewing along the Line of Control since militants attacked an Indian army base in the Uri sector of Kashmir two weeks ago, killing 18 soldiers. India has insisted that the militants were armed and sponsored by Pakistan.
Gen Singh said Thursday’s cross-border strikes took place early in the morning and targeted an unspecified number of “launch pads”, causing “significant casualties to terrorists and those trying to shield them”. No Indian soldiers died in the operation.
Pakistan rejected India’s claim of having carried out cross-border strikes, however. A statement from Inter-Services Public Relations, the communications wing of Pakistan’s military establishment, said that only “cross-border fire initiated and conducted by India” had taken place on Thursday morning.
Two Pakistani soldiers died in this firing, which lasted from 2.30am to 8am, the statement said.
“The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects,” the statement added. “This quest by the Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of truth.”
Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, strongly condemned “the unprovoked and naked aggression of Indian forces”.
Gen Singh said he had spoken to his Pakistani counterpart, “shared our concerns, and told him that we conducted surgical strikes last night”, referring to early on Thursday.
“We don’t have a plan to further conduct such strikes,” he added.
Later in the day, Mr Sharif held a meeting to review his country’s defence preparedness. “We are ready for the safety and defence of our country,” he said.
India is believed to have conducted cross-border strikes in the past, notably between 1998 and 2004 under the prime ministership of Atal Behari Vajpayee. But the government has never publicly claimed such strikes before.
The Indian government called for an all-party meeting to brief political leaders about the cross-border operation.
Across the spectrum, India’s political parties applauded the army’s pre-emptive action. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress party, said it would send “a strong message” to Pakistan.
“[It] conveys our country’s resolve to prevent further infiltration and attacks on our security forces and our people,” she said.
India also briefed the ambassadors of 25 countries – including the United States, China, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom – about the strikes and their context. S Jaishankar, India’s foreign secretary, assured the envoys that the strikes constituted “a classic counter-terrorism operation more than a military one”, and confirmed that India had no further plans to conduct further such operations.
New Delhi also found support within its immediate neighbourhood. Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, appealed for restraint from all sides but said that India had the right “to rebuff and to combat any type of aggression from any quarter, [even] if it is from a neighbouring country.”
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Published: September 29, 2016 04:00 AM