ISLAMABAD: The Narendra Modi administration staged a drama on Thursday to placate a media-induced public frenzy following the Uri attack. The Indian military claimed that it had carried out ‘surgical strikes’ against perceived ‘terrorist launch pads’ on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir region. But the Pakistani military ripped to shreds the Indian farcical claim as an “illusion being deliberately generated by the Indians to create false effects”.
“We deny it. There is no such thing on the ground. There is just the incident of the firing last night, which we responded to,” chief military spokesperson Lt Gen Asim Bajwa told a news channel. “There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross-border fire initiated and conducted by India,” the Inter-Services Public Relations added in a statement.
“As per rules of engagement, [the] same was strongly and befittingly responded by Pakistani troops,” the ISPR added.
The notion of a surgical strike is a “quest by the Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of truth”. Pakistan Air Force also rubbished the Indian claim, saying “Pakistan’s air defence will be ensured at all costs”.
India’s media as well as hawks in its officialdom have been baying for blood since four gunmen mounted a brazen attack on a military base in Uri, in the disputed Kashmir region, on Sept 18, killing 18 Indian soldiers. The Modi administration has drawn a lot of flak over its reluctance to go for military adventurism. And Pakistani officials believe this is why this farcical drama was staged by the Indian military.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said India is trying to give false colour to the exchange of fire on the LoC to appease its trigger-happy people and media. “The firing on the LoC is a part of a well-thought-out plan to satisfy Indian public opinion,” he said in a statement. “Pakistani soldiers gave a befitting response to Indian aggression and our armed forces are fully prepared to do so in case of any violation of ceasefire on the LoC.
According to the ISPR, Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing at four sectors of the LoC, Bhimber, Hot Spring, Kel, and Lipa. The fire exchange started at 2:30am and continued till 8am, it added. Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in the firing. They were identified as Havaldar Jumma Khan and Naik Imtiaz.
It’s not the first time India has presumably avenged the Uri killings. The Quint news website claimed on Sept 21 that Indian army troops had conducted a cross-LoC surgical strike on the night between Sept 20 and 21 and ‘neutralised at least 20 terrorists’. The story was laughed off by Indian readers who questioned its veracity. Shame-facedly, however, The Quint cited Thursday’s ‘surgical strike’ as a proof of what it claims happened on Sept 20.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the ‘unprovoked and naked aggression’ of Indian forces. “Our intent for a peaceful neighbourhood should not be mistaken as our weakness,” Sharif said as he paid rich tributes to the martyred soldiers. He said Pakistan’s valiant forces were fully capable of defending the territorial integrity of the country and can thwart any evil design made to undermine the sovereignty of Pakistan.
India’s high commissioner was also summoned by the foreign secretary to reject the ‘baseless Indian claim’ of surgical strikes. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry condemned the unprovoked firing by the Indian forces on the LoC. “These incidents are a continuation of a pattern of ceasefire violations committed by India,” he said, adding that the armed forces of Pakistan would continue to give a befitting response to any act of aggression.
Chaudhry noted that India has deliberately escalated tensions at the LoC in order to divert attention of the international community from the grave situation in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where the occupation forces have unleashed a reign of terror against innocent and defenceless people.
The foreign secretary stated that Pakistan remains a victim of interference and Indian state-sponsored terrorism. In this regard, he referred to the confessional statement of serving Indian naval officer Kulbushan Jadhav, who had been carrying out terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan and Karachi.
Chaudhry also expressed Pakistan’s deep disappointment at India’s decision to pull out of the 19th Saarc summit. For its part, Pakistan is committed to the objective of regional cooperation, envisaged in the Saarc Charter.
Earlier in the day, a senior Indian army officer claimed that they had conducted ‘surgical strikes’ across the LoC to thwart attacks on some of its biggest cities. “Some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the LoC,” said Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, the director general military operations of India, describing the intelligence information as ‘very specific and credible’.
“The Indian army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launch pads. Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them,” he told a news conference in New Delhi. “The operations aimed at neutralising the terrorists have since ceased,”
Singh said the decision to launch the strikes had been taken after the military determined the launch pads 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 did not say whether the strikes had been carried out by the Indian air force or by ground troops.
The Indian DGMO said he had called his Pakistani counterpart to inform him of the operation, which had ended. But Lt Gen Bajwa said the contact between DGMOs only included communication regarding cross-border firing, which was within existing rules of engagement.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2016.