India claims it carried out surgical strikes against Pakistani-based militants across the de facto border in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir – a claim which Islamabad denies, accusing India of firing across the border and killing two soldiers.
Referring to the alleged strikes, India’s Director General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh said in a Thursday statement that “some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launchpads along the Line of Control.”
“The Indian Army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launchpads. Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them.”
“The operations aimed at neutralizing the terrorists have since ceased,” he told a press conference in the Indian capital New Delhi, as quoted by AFP.
He did not elaborate on the nature of the operations, or whether Indian troops had entered Pakistani-controlled territory.
Singh said the action followed “specific and credible information” that terrorists were waiting to carry out attacks on India’s territory.
He said the Indian Army had informed Pakistan about the operation, and is “prepared for any contingency that may arise.” Singh claimed that India’s military has foiled 20 infiltration attempts by terrorists this year.
“India is doing this only to please their media and public,” Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif replied in a statement cited by Reuters.
The Pakistani military said, “there has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross border fire initiated and conducted by India.” It said that Indian troops fired across the de facto border known as the ‘Line of Control,’ killing two Pakistani soldiers and injuring nine others.
It called Delhi’s statements a “fabrication” and added that its soldiers “befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing.”
“This quest by Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of truth,” the military said.
The exchanges of gunfire, which lasted about six hours, took place in the Bhimber, Hot Spring, Kel, and Lipa sectors in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the military’s press wing said in an earlier statement cited by Reuters.
An Indian Army officer said there had been shelling from the Pakistani side of the border into Nowgam district in Kashmir, Reuters adds. The Indian side did not report any casualties or damage.
The Thursday incident comes just one day after Pakistan said that India will “disintegrate” when Kashmir gains independence.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told SAMAA TV channel earlier this week that Islamabad is open to using tactical devices against India – a reference to nuclear weapons which Pakistan is believed to possess.
Threatening to “annihilate” India if Pakistan feels its safety is threatened, Asif said: “Tactical weapons, our programs that we have developed, they have been developed for our protection. We haven’t kept the devices that we have just as showpieces.”
Long-standing tensions between the two countries escalated earlier this month, when an attack on an Indian Army base killed 18 soldiers. The assault prompted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to warn that the crime “would not go unpunished.”
Relations also worsened over the summer, when India launched a crackdown on dissent in Kashmir following the killing of separatist leader Burhan Wani by security forces in July.
Both Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in its entirety, but govern separate parts of the disputed area. The two sides have fought four wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.