International desk – India on Thursday attacked militants’ launchpads along its border with Pakistan that according to Indian media caused heavy damage.
India called it “surgical strikes” that inflicted heavy damage on seven “launchpads” militants were preparing to use to cross over into the country, according to Hindustan Times newspaper.
Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, director general of military operations, said the army conducted the operation – the first official one across the Pakistani border — based on specific intelligence and had informed Pakistani military about it.
“Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them,” Singh told a press conference. “The operations aimed at neutralising the terrorists have since ceased.”
Pakistani authorities claimed at least two of their soldiers were killed as Indian troops fired across the Line of Control in ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’.
“There had been cross border fire initiated and conducted by India which is [an] existential phenomenon,” said Pakistani Inter-Services Public Relations department in a statement.
It said an exchange of fire between Pakistani and Indian LoC troops began at 2:30am and continued till 8:00am in the Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel and Lipa sectors in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
“Pakistani troops befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing on the LoC,” it added while Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said nine soldiers were injured during the incident, according to Dawn newspaper.
The Hindustan Times reported quoting army sources in New Delhi that seven “launchpads”or temporary bases used by militants – located between 1km and 3km across the LoC — were targeted after a week of surveillance.
The operation began around midnight on Wednesday and ended around 4:30am on Thursday, sources said.
Paratroopers from the Udhampur-based Northern Command carried out the strike. They were airdropped at the LoC, from where they crossed over to the other side, sources said.
Calls have grown in India for a robust response to an attack on the army’s base in Uri, Kashmir, that New Delhi says was carried out by militants based mostly across the line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border between India and Pakistan.
The strikes could be seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi following through on his warning that those responsible for the attack “would not go unpunished”. The Indian army had also said it would avenge the attack at a time and place of its choosing.
New Delhi has also moved to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, including pulling out of the summit of South Asian Association for Regional Coperation that was to be held in Islamabad in November.
Singh said the decision to launch the strikes had been taken after the military determined the launchpads had been set up with “an aim to carry out infiltration and terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and various other metros in our country.”
“The operations were basically focused to ensure that these terrorists do not succeed in their design of infiltration and carrying out destruction and endangering the lives of citizens of our country,” he said.
But the Pakistani military rejected the idea that the strikes had been “surgical”.
“There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross-border firing initiated and conducted by India,” it said in a statement.
“As per rules of engagement same was strongly and befittingly responded by Pakistani troops.
“The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects. This quest by Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of truth.”
In a statement from his office, Sharif “strongly condemned the unprovoked and naked aggression of Indian forces”.
India’s official announcement came just hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (to review the situation along the LoC.
The government briefed former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and governor, the President and the vice-president about the strikes.
Meanwhile, villagers on some stretches of the Pakistan border in Punjab were being evacuated. Sources also said trade with Pakistan through the LoC had also been halted by India, the newspaper reported.