SOURCE: Hindustan Times
India and Pakistan traded dire warnings on Monday in the aftermath of the weekend strike on Jammu’s Sunjuwan military station, scaling up the prospect of a cross-border retaliation.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman accused Pakistan of helping Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants launch the attack, warning that the neighbour “will have to pay for this misadventure” as she visited the camp where five soldiers and a civilian were killed.
Pakistan earlier warned New Delhi to “refrain from any misadventure across the Line of Control…” in an apparent reference to India’s military action of September 29, 2016 that was described as a “surgical strike” to avenge a militant attack on an army base in Uri that led to the deaths of 19 soldiers.
“Terrorists belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, sponsored by Azhar Masood residing in Pakistan and deriving support from there,” Sitharaman said, citing intelligence reports that said the attackers were being controlled by handlers from across the border.
India has long been asking for JeM chief Masood Azhar to be designated an international terrorist by the United Nations, a move that has been blocked by China.
“Evidence is being scrutinised by the National Investigation Agency. Pakistan is expanding the arch of terror to areas south of Pir Panjal and resorting to ceasefire violations to assist infiltration,” Sitharaman added.
But Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said hours earlier that a dialogue with Pakistan “was the only option” to end violence in the Jammu and Kashmir. “I know I will be labelled anti-national by news anchors tonight but that doesn’t matter. The people of Jammu & Kashmir are suffering. We have to talk because war is not an option,” she told the state assembly in Jammu. Mufti is the chief of the Peoples Democratic Party, which is in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party that rules at the Centre.
“India and Pakistan have fought enough wars. They must now hold talks to resolve the problem of continuing violence in the state. How long will we make sacrifices? How long we will keep bearing the brunt of this violence?” Mufti said.
“There are many options available to the government in terms of paying back Pakistan in the same coin. Since the defence minister has spoken about it, I am sure the options are being deliberated upon at the moment,” said Lt General DS Hooda, former Northern Army commander.
On Monday, soldiers killed the last of the attackers in Sunjuwan military base even as a separate group of militants tried to enter a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Srinagar. One paramilitary constable died in the gunfight, while the attackers fled to a nearby building. A gunfight between them and security forces went on till late evening.
In Delhi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting of top defence officials to discuss the attacks. An official aware of the discussion, while requesting anonymity, said the minister asked for perimeter security around military bases in Jammu & Kashmir to be strengthened and efforts be made to reduce civilian casualties.
Those who attended the meeting included Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba and director of Intelligence Bureau Rajiv Jain.
The attack in Sunjuwan was the deadliest on the Indian army since late 2016. On November 29 that year, seven soldiers – two of them officers – were killed in Nagrota, Jammu when armed militants attacked the base.