Two Pakistani Soldiers Killed, One Indian Soldier Captured
Tensions are one again soaring along the contested “line of control” that runs through Kashmir, with Indian Army officials claiming to have launched raids into the side controlled by the Pakistani military to conduct “surgical strikes” against militants operating there, apparently getting into fights with the Pakistani troops.
Pakistan denied that the Indian troops actually crossed the LOC, but did confirm two Pakistani soldiers killed and nine wounded trading small arms fire along the frontier. There were intermittent reports of artillery and mortar fire back and forth over the LOC all day.
At least one Indian soldier indisputably got across the LOC, however, with Pakistani officials reportedly capturing him. Indian officials say this soldier was not involved in the raids, but was supposed to be patrolling the LOC and accidentally wandered onto the wrong side.
India has almost never been this public in confirming cross-LOC raids, and that they publicly announced this reflects a precipitous increase in tensions in the area. This is the result of an incident in which militants killed a dozen Indian soldiers earlier this month in Kashmir, after the militants reportedly crossed the LOC in the opposite direction.
Pakistani officials warned that they would consider such cross-LOC strikes “an act of war,” with one unnamed “senior security official” telling the media Pakistan might use tactical nuclear weapons in self-defense.
At the same time, Indian PM Narendra Modi has threatened to severely curb Pakistan’s access to key rivers, from which they get a vital amount of water, warning “blood and water cannot flow at the same time.” Pakistani media is reporting that China has threatened to get involved in the water dispute, and could block the rivers flowing into India in the first place.
Army’s daring surgical strike marks radical change in India’s Pakistan policy
NEW DELHI: In a radical break from its Pakistan policy and in what effectively changes the rules of the game for its terror-sponsor neighbour, India on Thursday announced that army special forces had carried out “surgical strikes” in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, targetting and destroying terror launch pads and killing terrorists.
The decision to go public was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) have been conducted by India earlier, but never acknowledged. Going public with the strike that happened over Wednesday night marks a huge strategic and tactical shift.
The message to Pakistan, senior members of the security establishment told ET, is that India henceforth reserves the right to launch strikes, including preemptive ones, to counter terror from across the border.
The first military response after Uri was followed by India putting its troops in the Western Command on high alert while telling Pakistan and the world that Indian forces targetted terrorists operating out of Pakistan-controlled territory, not Pakistani armed forces.
While India said it was ready for any response from Pakistan, those familiar with high-level tactical and strategic thinking in New Delhi were of the opinion that Islamabad may not respond aggressively, at least not immediately.
Pakistan’s response was to deny any surgical strike by India and claim that crossborder shelling killed two Pakistani soldiers. This claim, strategists here said, seemed to limit Pakistani military’s range of options, as crossborder shelling is common enough not to warrant a special response.
India informed Pakistan about the strike and said it has “no plans for further continuation” but that the armed forces are “fully prepared for any contingency that may arise”. Although the reading is that Pakistani response won’t be dramatic, villages along the Punjab border are being evacuated and army formations have been put on standby for possible retaliation.
In the sensitive Northern Command, where the action was conceptualised and executed, the postings of top officers have been frozen and all border units have been put on operational alert in anticipation of an increase in terror attacks and cross-border firing.
Among the instructions given out in the Northern Command is a message that at no point within cantonment areas can more than 10 soldiers gather at a spot. Leave and posting have been cancelled in the Northern and Western Commands as well — the two army formations that border sensitive areas in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian Air Force is already carrying out a special readiness exercise along the western border while the Indian Navy is planning a major show of strength in the Arabian Sea with a naval exercise.
SEVEN LAUNCH PADS TARGETTED
Officials said the strike, carried out by at least two Para Commando units, targetted seven launch pads and were planned over the past week, with scenarios and contingencies rehearsed and the top political leadership kept in the loop. They were based on specific inputs that terrorists were planning to cross over.
The Director-General of Military Operations, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, informed his Pakistani counterpart of the strike with an assurance that the target was terror infrastructure and not the Pakistani establishment.
“Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along Line of Control to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states, the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists,” Lt Gen Singh said in a public statement.
India announced the strikes after the CCS meeting on Thursday morning, where the Army briefed the political leadership on the details of the mission.
A range of briefings on the strikes took place through the day, with the President, Vice-President, former PM Manmohan Singh and the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Governor informed about the details. India also briefed the envoys of 25 nations.
While the number of casualties is not immediately known, it is estimated that 30-35 terrorists were at the locations targetted by special forces. Two Indian Army soldiers are believed to have been injured in the attack but were safely evacuated after the strike.
Late on Thursday evening, India confirmed that a soldier belonging to an anti-infiltration unit had inadvertently crossed over to the other side of LoC. After reports in Pakistani media that an Indian soldier had been apprehended, officials said the jawan from 37 Rashtriya Rifles had indeed crossed over. The Indian side, however, rubbished Pakistani reports that eight Indian Army personnel had been killed.