ISLAMABAD.: As the country celebrated the first anniversary of February 27, 2019 ‘operation swift retort’, Pakistan Army on Thursday said there was “no space” of a war between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India but warned that Pakistan will respond swiftly if its sovereignty and territorial integrity is challenged.
“There is no space for war between the two nuclear powers. If the two nuclear powers go to war, the consequences would be unintended and uncontrollable,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major Gen Babar Iftikhar told reporters in Rawalpindi at his maiden press conference.
His statement came at the first anniversary of a military standoff between Pakistan and India following an attack on Indian paramilitary troops in Pulawma area of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
The suicide attack carried out by a young Kashmiri, Adil Ahmed Dar, on Feb 14, 2019 had left 40 Indian soldiers dead and triggered one of the worst military standoffs between the two rival neighbours as New Delhi had immediately pointed an accusing finger at Islamabad.
On February 26, India sent across fighter jets to Pakistan, targeting the so-called ‘terror launch pads’ near Balakot area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province.
The Indian fighter planes had dropped their payload on a field, uprooting a few trees and killing a crow. They later fled after being chased down by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets.
The Indian media and government, however, claimed that so-called strikes had killed between 250 to 300 terrorists, a claim not only rebutted by Pakistan but also by independent media and experts.
The two countries were on the brink of a war when Pakistan the next day mounted its response.
During the dogfight, Pakistan shot down two Indian fighter jets. One of them crashed on the Pakistani side. The pilot of Russian made MiG-21 Wing Commander Abinandan was captured. But Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to release him within 48 hours to ease tensions with India.
“After the Pulwama incident, India blamed Pakistan. We offered all cooperation. But on Feb 26, they carried out a cowardly attack. We were prepared and the surprise they wanted to give to us, we gave it to them and they retreated,” said the ISPR chief, referring to the botched Balakot airstrike.
“Pakistan responded in broad day light,” he said. “February 27 is another golden chapter in our history, which every Pakistani rightly feels proud of.”
He said India is desperately trying to distract world attentions from its follies and atrocities in Occupied Kashmir. “The country’s civil and military leadership is well aware of Indian designs.”
To a question, Gen Babar ruled out the possibility of a war between the two nuclear neighbours.
He said the region could not afford a war between the two nuclear powers. He said in the event of any such eventuality, “the destruction will be mutually assured”.
The chief military spokesperson also said Pakistan wants peace. “Our efforts are aimed at seeking peace,” he added but, according to him, India unfortunately has no such intentions.
A year after the standoff, relationship between the two countries remained tense.
In fact, the current phase is even worse than last year particularly after Indian move in August to revoke the special status of disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. What has further aggravated the situation is the repeated statements by Indian leadership, threatening to attack Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The ISPR chief said Pakistan is taking recent belligerent statements by the Indian leadership very seriously and is prepared to meet any challenge.
Maj Gen Babar also elaborated on the ongoing ceasefire violations at the Line of Control (LoC) and said the year 2019 saw the highest number of 385 violations.
“The Pakistan Army is a professional fighting force and only targets military check posts when provoked, but the Indian armed forces continue to target innocent civilians,” he said.
He said Pakistan understands the pain of Kashmiris, who have been facing a lockdown since August 5, 2019. Pakistan has all the options on the table, Gen Babar said.
He said the leadership has done its best to highlight the issue of Kashmir at all international forums. “The world is alive to the situation,” the spokesperson said, stressing that Kashmir dispute has become international flashpoint.
“Everything possible is being done,” he replied when asked what strategy Pakistan has on Kashmir.
When asked about the imminent Afghan peace deal, Gen Babar said the Taliban- US deal to be signed on Feb 29 would bring positive impact. He said no one wished for peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan.
He also spoke about Pakistan’s sincere efforts to facilitate the peace process. “Everyone has acknowledged our efforts. We have done our best.”
He dismissed the perception that relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are tense.
“There is nothing wrong with our relationship with Afghanistan. We have very cordial and positive relationship with Afghanistan. I don’t see any reason our relationship go sour with Afghanistan.”
Earlier, the DG highlighted Pakistan’s achievements in the fight against terrorism. He said Pakistan paid a huge price in this war. “Over 80,000 lost their lives while economic losses were $180 billion.”
Despite best efforts by anti-Pakistan forces, Pakistan remained relevant internationally. “Journey from terrorism to tourism is highly impressive.”
He said the entire nation and media played a key role in defeating the narrative of terrorists and extremists. He also spoke about the rights of minorities in Pakistan.