Pakistan denies reports that Indian fighter aircraft destroyed terror camp in attack across de facto border
NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) – Indian fighter jets destroyed a major terrorist camp in Pakistan, the ANI news agency said, as tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals rose following an attack in Kashmir earlier this month.
Quoting unnamed sources in the the Indian Air Force, ANI said a dozen Mirage 2000 Indian fighter jets dropped 1,000 kilogram bombs on terror camps across the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two countries in disputed Kashmir.
Indian Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Aman Anand did not respond to a call and text for comment.
Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar declined to comment when reached by phone on Tuesday morning (Feb 26).
“Indian aircraft intruded from Muzafarabad sector,” Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesman of the Pakistan Armed Forces, said in a Twitter post, adding that the Pakistan Air Force responded by scrambling its own jets.
“Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage.”
This risks escalating India-Pakistan tensions dramatically, but the fact that Pakistan has already said the aircraft did no significant damage could lead to a de-escalation, Dr Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, focusing on nuclear proliferation and strategy, said via e-mail.
“The last time the Indian Air Force crossed the line of control intentionally and publicly to conduct air strikes was 1971,” Dr Narang said, referring to the Indo-Pak war.
Relations between the historic arch-rivals has been extremely tense since a suicide car bombing, claimed by the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, on Feb 14 in Kashmir killed 40 members of India’s security forces.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed is a United Nations-designated terrorist group.
The Indian rupee weakened offshore, with one-month non-deliverable forward trading at 71.32 a dollar before local markets open.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces a general election in the coming months, is under enormous pressure after blaming Pakistan for the worst attack on security forces in Kashmir in several decades, and markets reacted after Mr Modi pledged a “befitting reply”.
Islamabad has denied any role in the attack. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to retaliate against India if New Delhi launched any sort of military response in a televised speech on Feb 19.
Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, in the past few days visited troops along the “Line of Control” to see their preparedness, according to the military media wing Inter-Services Public Relations.
The Indian Army said on earlier on Feb 19 that it had killed a Jaish-e-Mohammed leader in Kashmir who was a Pakistani national with links to that country’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the main spy agency for the government in Islamabad.
Mr Modi had previously said the country’s defence forces have been given the freedom to respond.
Both India and the US see Pakistan as providing safe haven for terrorist groups and point to the fact that the leadership of groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the Mumbai attacks in 2008, still live freely in Pakistan.
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