Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

India fighter jets 'destroy terrorist camp in Pakistan'

Islamabad threatens to retaliate against first Indian airstrike inside Pakistani territory since their 1971 war

Pakistan's National Security Committee on Tuesday rejected India's claim it was targeting a terrorist camp when Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistani territory earlier in the day and dropped bombs.

"Once again India's government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim," Prime Minister Imran Khan's party tweeted.

The committee said that "India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing. To take the nation on board, the government has decided to requisition joint session of the Parliament."

Mr Khan instructed the military and civilians to "remain prepared for all eventualities".

The incident early on Tuesday morning came after the recent Kashmir suicide bombing.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale said on Tuesday morning that they had received intelligence that the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad was plotting an attack. "In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary ... In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot," Mr Gokhale said.

India said the airstrike it launched in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir killed a "very large number" of the group's militants, trainers and commanders. JeM was blamed for the deadly suicide bombing that killed Indian troops in the disputed territory earlier this month.

Following an emergency meeting, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi accused India of breaching the Line of Control, saying Pakistan had the right to issue "an appropriate response".

The jets crossed the Line of Control near Muzafarabad in the Pakistani-administered part of the disputed region, according to Pakistan's military.

But the Pakistani military said no damage was caused when the aircraft dropped their payloads after flying three to four miles inside Pakistani territory.

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi on Tuesday warned that rhetoric "can lead to war".

Although he did not refer to the overnight incursion by the Indian fighter jets, Mr Alvi did say India had created "hysteria" after the attack on Indian troops in Kashmir.

Analysts predicted a strike by New Delhi after at least 40 Indian paramilitary police died in a suicide bombing on their convoy in Pulwama earlier this month.

Kashmir has been at the heart of tensions between the neighbours since 1947, with both countries claiming the whole of the territory, but ruling it in part. The beautiful Himalayan region has been the cause of two of the nations' three wars.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced intense domestic pressure to respond to the recent bombing, which he blamed on JeM. Mr Modi faces a general election in weeks and the bombing is dominating the campaign.

Allies of the two nations, including Saudi Arabia, the US, Britain and China have tried to lower the diplomatic temperature and get the countries to talk.

Another militant attack on Indian forces in 2016 led to New Delhi saying it had launched cross border “surgical strikes” to destroy terrorist camps. At the time Pakistan denied the strikes happened.

Shelling across the Line of Control has occurred frequently over the past few years but airspace incidents are extremely rare. Tuesday's action was the first Indian airstrike inside Pakistani territory since their 1971 war.

Updated: February 26, 2019 07:35 PM

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