India Claims Strikes on ‘Terror Camps’ in Pakistani Kashmir

Akash Vashishtha
New Delhi
2016-09-29
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160929-IN-kashmir-620.jpg Indian citizens celebrate after commandos conducted strikes along the Line of Control in Kashmir, wiping out at least five “terror launch pads,” Sept. 29, 2016.
AFP

India’s claim of wiping out at least five “terror launch pads” in a pre-dawn strike in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Thursday could prompt a retaliatory military action, analysts warned, while ruling out the possibility of a full-blown war between the two sides.

In a first of its kind military operation across the Line of Control (LoC), Indian soldiers went up to 3 km (1.8 miles) inside what it calls Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and eliminated at least five “terror launch pads” early Thursday, the Indian Army said.

“I doubt this action by the Indian armed forces would create a war-like situation, but no doubt military exchanges could escalate. A war could have been possible had Pakistan recognized the surgical strike, but they are denying that any such action occurred. But Pakistani troops may begin firing on Indian troops across the LoC,” former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal told BenarNews.

The LoC is a de facto border dividing the Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since the bitter partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947.

“Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the LoC to carry out infiltration and conduct strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states, the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists,” Military Operations Director General Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh told reporters.

The action came 10 days after suspected Pakistani militants attacked an Indian army installation in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, killing 18 soldiers. India has blamed Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) for the attack.

“Significant casualties have been caused to terrorists and those trying to shield them. We don’t have a plan to further conduct such strikes,” Singh said.

Defense sources told BenarNews that 38 suspected militants and nine Pakistani soldiers were killed in the operation, adding that the Indian army did not suffer any casualties.

Pakistan denies Indian strike

Pakistan, however, denied that any such strike took place, saying two soldiers were killed when India opened fire from across the LoC.

“Pakistani troops befittingly responded to unprovoked Indian firing on the LoC in Bhimber, Hot Spring Kel and Lipa sectors,” the Pakistan Army said in a statement.

“Our desire for peace should not be interpreted as our weakness. We are ready for the safety and defense of [our] country. We strongly condemn the unprovoked and naked aggression of Indian forces resulting in the martyrdom of two Pakistan soldiers,” Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told local media.

But the Indian Army said it had video evidence of the Thursday’s strikes in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and “would share it at an appropriate time.”

Tensions between the two arch-rivals have been mounting since the Uri attack, with many in India backing a full-scale military response against Pakistani terror groups, which have been blamed for at least five major attacks on Indian soil in the last decade.

“Despite intense provocation for so many years, it is only the first time Indian forces have crossed the LoC. So the onus is now on Pakistan. The surgical strike is a clear indication that India’s patience has run out,” Sibal said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim, a New Delhi-based counter-terrorism expert, hailed the action and warned of a retaliatory measure by Pakistan.

“The surgical strike is part of India’s policy of zero tolerance for terrorism. Giving that message was important. But Pakistan will not remain quiet. Indian forces must be very alert to a retaliatory action,” Karim told BenarNews.

Late on Thursday, the Indian Army began evacuating all villages within 10 km (6.2 miles) of the Indo-Pak border in the states of Punjab, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir “as a precautionary measure,” sources said.

‘Economic war’

The military action came as India initiated what is being described as an “economic war” on Pakistan in the wake of the attack in Uri.

Following a meeting chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, a decision was taken to review the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. The water-distribution pact, brokered by the World Bank, gave control over three eastern tributaries of the Indus River – Beas, Ravi and Jhelum – to India, while control over the three western tributaries – Indus, Chenab and Jhelum – was given to Pakistan.

New Delhi said it would now make optimum use of the waters of the Pakistan-controlled tributaries, which flow through India, for generating hydro-power, irrigation and storage. A large chunk of Pakistan’s agriculture industry depends on the Indus waters.

India is allowed to use only 20 percent of the total water carried by the Indus River, according to the treaty. Although the pact allows India to use these waters to develop 1.34 million acres of irrigation in Jammu and Kashmir, only 642,477 acres have been irrigated in the state, the government said.

It added that the possibility of scrapping the pact had not been ruled out.

“Blood and water cannot flow together,” Modi said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Later that day Pakistan said unilateral revocation of the treaty would be seen as an act of war.

“The Indus Waters Treaty is perhaps the most successful water treaty ever conducted between the two countries. Its revocation can be taken as an act of war or a hostile act against Pakistan,” Sharif’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz told the Pakistani daily Dawn.

Scrapping water treaty ‘not easy’

Analysts said an abrogation of the treaty was not an easy option for India.

“The only way to hold back the water from Pakistan is by obstructing or diverting the river. Obstructing it would mean that the upstream areas in India would be flooded. Abrogation of the treaty would not only impact people in Pakistan but also in India,” New Delhi-based river conservationist Manoj Misra told BenarNews.

Modi is also expected to chair a meeting next week to review its Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan. If the status is withdrawn, Pakistan will not be able to export goods to India.

The MFN status, under the World Trade Organization, ensures equal treatment in imports and exports in terms of trading prices or tariffs and markets access without any discrimination.

In addition, the Modi government is examining the possibility of snapping air links with Pakistan, sources told BenarNews.

But Moushumi Basu, a professor of international studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said economic retaliation will serve no purpose.

“Waging an economic war will not affect Nawaz Sharif, but the common man of Pakistan. You can’t equate individual groups with what the state is doing. A political engagement between both sides to find a lasting solution is the only way forward,” Basu told BenarNews.

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