Amid increasing tension with its neighbor and traditional rival Pakistan, India announced Thursday it had launched “surgical strikes” inside Pakistan-controlled territory Wednesday night “to safeguard our nation.” Pakistan, however, denied India’s claims, terming them an “illusion” and calling the firing “unprovoked” and an “existential phenomenon.”
Referring to the Line of Control that separates India- and Pakistan-controlled areas of Kashmir, Director General for Military Operations Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh said in a press conference conducted jointly by the ministries of defense and external affairs: “India conducted surgical strikes last night across the LoC to safeguard our nation. Significant casualties have been caused to terrorists and those trying to shield them. We don’t have a plan to further conduct such strikes. India has spoken to Pakistan.”
He added: “There were launch pads at the LoC where terrorists were present waiting to infiltrate the nation and attack areas in Kashmir and metros across the country.” No casualties were suffered by the Indian side.
The Indian Army also issued a statement on its Twitter page.
The response from Pakistan was a mixture of allegation, condemnation and denial.
Inter Services Public Relations, the media arm of the Pakistan military, acknowledged the exchange of gunfire but denied the idea of precision strikes. In a statement, it said: “There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross border fire initiated and conducted by India which is existential phenomenon. 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 Indian 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.”
The statement also said two Pakistani soldiers died in the firing. According to a report that cited the country’s defense minister, nine army personnel were injured during the incident.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly said: “Our intent for a peaceful neighborhood should not be mistaken as our weakness.”
The usually strained situation along the border between the two countries took a sharp turn for the worse on Sept. 18 when four terrorists attacked an Indian Army base in the town of Uri in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. India blamed the attack, in which 18 Indian soldiers were killed, on Jaish-e-Mohammad, an organization based in Pakistan. Some days later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Pakistan directly for the attack.
India and Pakistan have fought four wars since their independence and separation in 1947, three of them over Kashmir. The LoC is a de facto border between the two countries, even though it is not recognized by either country as such, both of which claim the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as their own.
The last time the two countries fought was in 1999, and a 2003 ceasefire signed between them is routinely violated, with frequent episodes of firing occurring along the heavily fenced border.