India’s army says it has carried out strikes on terrorist bases across the country’s de facto border with Pakistan.
Relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated in recent months. AFP photo
By NIHARIKA MANDHANA
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Sept. 29, 2016 11:53 a.m. ET
NEW DELHI—India’s army said Thursday it had carried out overnight “surgical strikes” on what it described as terrorist bases across the country’s de facto border with Pakistan, a move likely to heighten already soaring tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
In a news conference, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, India’s director general of military operations, said “significant casualties have been caused to the terrorists and those who are trying to support them.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement condemning what he called “unprovoked and naked aggression” by India, whose actions he said resulted in the deaths of two Pakistani soldiers.
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Indian military and government officials said Indian forces had crossed the line of control that separates the Indian- and Pakistani-governed parts of Kashmir to hit militant camps. Both countries claim the disputed region in full.
Pakistan’s military denied there had been any intrusion from India, saying Indian troops had fired from their side of the frontier. Pakistan’s army said it responded “strongly and befittingly.”
The strikes followed a militant assault on an Indian army installation earlier in September that killed 18 soldiers. India blamed Pakistan for that attack, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said wouldn’t go “unpunished.”
“Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that so
Sporadic cross-border firing isn’t unusual between the estranged neighbors, but raids by the countries’ armed forces are rare. A senior Indian official said this was the first time India had publicly acknowledged carrying out such a strike. Both India and Pakistan are believed to have covertly undertaken similar operations in the past.
Girding for possible retaliation, Indian authorities ordered the evacuation of villages along the frontier with Pakistan. Gen. Singh said the military was “prepared for any contingency that may arise.”
India and Pakistan have fought multiple wars since independence from Britain in 1947, three of them over Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamist militants who target India, something Islamabad denies. Pakistani terrorists killed 166 people in Mumbai in 2008.
The most recent conflict involving security forces of the two sides was in 1999, when troops clashed in the mountains of Kashmir.
Mr. Modi has pledged a more muscular approach to dealing with terror and other security threats. Last year, Indian special forces carried out strikes in neighboring Myanmar against militants it blamed for attacks on Indian security personnel in the country’s northeast.
“This is unprecedented. It is a message to Pakistan that the paradigms of the past are no longer valid,” said Ajai Sahni, executive director of the New Delhi-based South Asia Terrorism Portal. Still, he said, he thought New Delhi had stopped short of actions that would provoke escalation from Pakistan.
Relations between the two have been strained for months as unrest has gripped the Indian-governed part of Kashmir. Islamabad has criticized India’s use of force against antigovernment demonstrators. India accuses Pakistan of stoking the protests and the violence.
The senior Indian official accused Pakistan of trying to increase militant forays into India to capitalize on the turmoil in Kashmir and further destabilize the region. Islamabad denies it has any connection to militancy in Kashmir.
Since the militant attack on the Indian army base on Sept. 18, India has stepped up diplomatic pressure to isolate Pakistan. New Delhi and three other South Asian countries said this week that they would boycott a regional summit set to be held in Islamabad in November.
Smoke rose from an Indian Army base which was attacked in Uri, west of Srinagar in Indian Kashmir, on Sept. 18. Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since the terror attack that killed 18 soldiers.
On Wednesday, the White House said the U.S. national-security adviser, Susan Rice, “strongly condemned” the militant attack, which it said highlighted “the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region.”
According to senior Indian officials, Indian forces crossed the line of control and hit temporary terrorist camps about a mile inside Pakistani-held territory. A military officer familiar with the operations said the forces pushed as far as 3 miles before withdrawing back across the line of control. Similar operations were conducted in 2013 after an Indian soldier was beheaded and another mutilated in border clashes, the officer said. Those raids weren’t disclosed to the public.
Pakistan’s military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, said India’s assertions of a “surgical strike” were a “fabrication.” He said, “Nothing like that happened on the ground.”
Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, also played down the event, which he described as “small weapons fire” across the line of control.
Another Pakistani security official said the confrontation involved “post-to-post fire exchange” along the line of control with some small-scale movement of Indian troops toward Pakistani posts.
India’s Gen. Singh said the military action followed “specific and credible information” that terrorists were waiting to infiltrate into India and carry out attacks in Kashmir and Indian cities. Gen. Singh said the Indian army had foiled 20 infiltration attempts by terrorists this year.
Attacks in India by Pakistani militants have brought India and Pakistan close to war before, including the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, blamed by Delhi on the Pakistani jihadist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the 2008 multiday assault on Mumbai, which India says was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba.
India has blamed Jaish-e-Mohammad for the attack on the military base earlier in September, as well as an assault on an air base close to the Pakistani border at the start of the year. Despite assurances from Islamabad that it would act against terrorists, Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has denied involvement, has continued to operate openly from its base in central Pakistan.
Hafiz Saeed, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which the United Nations considers a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, continues to give lectures and sermons—for instance, addressing followers at the festival of Eid earlier in September.
On Thursday, in the Indian state of Punjab, officials urged villagers to move away from border areas, making announcements over loudspeakers, said Mohan Singh, a police constable in the Punjabi city of Amritsar. Schools and shops were ordered closed on Thursday afternoon.
“We are telling people that the place might not be safe for them soon,” he said.
—Qasim Nauman and Saeed Shah in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Rajesh Roy and Vibhuti Agarwal in New Delhi contributed to this article.
Write to Niharika Mandhana at firstname.lastname@example.org
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