ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s civil and military leadership on Tuesday declared the violation of airspace by Indian fighter jets “uncalled for aggression” and decided that the country would respond at the “time and place of its choosing”.
The statement came after an emergency meeting of the high-powered National Security Committee (NSC) was convened to discuss the fallout of Indian claims of targeting alleged terror training camp in Pakistani territory.
The meeting of the NSC, which is the highest decision making forum on issues of national security and foreign policy, was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by key cabinet ministers as well as three services chiefs and other officials.
It was Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor, who first broke the news of airspace violation by Indian jets along the Line of Control (LoC). His early morning tweet said Pakistan scrambled its fighter jets to challenge the Indian incursion. In haste, according to the chief military spokesperson, Indian warplanes released their payloads that had free fall in an open area.
Few hours later, the Indian foreign secretary addressed a news conference in New Delhi in which he claimed that Indian fighter jets carried out ‘preemptive strikes’ targeting the alleged terrorist camps of banned Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militant group.
Pakistan did confirm the Indian incursion but strongly rebutted the claim that any terrorist camp was hit on its side of the LoC.
The NSC vehemently dismissed the Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties.
“Once again Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim. This action has been done for domestic consumption being in election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk,” an official statement issued by the Prime Minister office said.
“The claimed area of strike is open for the world to see the facts on ground. For this domestic and international media is being taken to the impact site,” it added.
The most significant decision taken by the NSC was that the Indian incursion would not go unpunished.
The civil and military leadership said that India has committed “uncalled for aggression” to which Pakistan shall respond at the “time and place of its choosing”.
The statement was later reiterated by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who along with Defence Minister Pervaiz Khatak and Finance Minister Asad Umar addressed a news conference on the decisions taken by the NSC.
Separately, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor also confirmed that Pakistan would retaliate to the Indian incursions.
The military spokesman refuted claims that PAF was not ready to deal with any Indian misadventure. “We were ready, we responded, we denied,” he said. “It is your [India] turn now to wait and get ready for our surprise”.
With these rapid developments, the meeting of National Command Authority (NCA), which controls Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, will be held today (Wednesday) to discuss all possible options.
The fact that the meeting of NCA, which is headed by the prime minister, has been convened is a clear indication that Pakistan is taking the Indian incursion very seriously.
Foreign Minister Qureshi told reporters that the government was following a multi-pronged strategy to deal with the evolving situation. He said it in categorical terms that Pakistan would respond to Indian aggression through political, diplomatic and military means.
Responding to questions as to why Pakistan did not shoot down the Indian fighter jets, Qureshi insisted that Pakistan would not ‘react but act’. “We do not want to get sucked into Indian plan,” he insisted.
On the political side, the government also decided to requisition a joint session of parliament to take the nation into confidence.
The foreign minister said the prime minister has directed that “elements of national power including the Armed Forces and the people of Pakistan to remain prepared for all eventualities”.
He has also decided to engage with the global leadership to “expose the irresponsible Indian policy in the region”. “The prime minister appreciated the timely and effective response of PAF to repulse Indian attempt without any loss of life or property,” Qureshi said.