Nuclear Rivals Tell Different Stories As Border Conflict Body Count Rises

REUTERS/Danish Ismail

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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At least two Pakistani soldiers were killed in a recent encounter with Indian troops in the disputed Kashmir region, reports CNN.

India carried out overnight “surgical strikes” against seven terrorist sites in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, inflicting “serious casualties” on suspected terrorists reportedly planning to skirt the Line of Control (LoC) and launch violent attacks against Indian cities, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, India’s Director General of Military Operations, revealed Thursday. The strikes also targeted terrorist sympathizers, Singh added.

Indian officials claim that around 40 terrorists were killed during the strikes, according to the Times of India.

Pakistan, however, argues that no such strikes occurred. There was merely an exchange of fire along the border, Pakistan officials said. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, which left two Pakistani soldiers dead, calling it “unprovoked and naked aggression” on the part of India.

“If India tries to do this again, we will respond forcefully,” Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said.

The latest case is unusual because, while cross-border fire is quite common, troop incursions into occupied territory are rare.

A series of incidents have occurred near the Kashmir LoC over the past month. Armed militants crossed the LoC and fired on an Indian army base on Sept. 18. A total of 18 Indian soldiers were killed during the attack. India considered the possibility of conducting surgical strikes against terrorist positions in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir in response. Pakistan said it was not responsible for the attack and called India’s claims “vitriolic.”

Another attack involving around a dozen militants occurred on Sept. 20. The majority of the attackers were killed during the assault. One Indian soldier fell during the battle. Pakistan denied any involvement in the attack.

Commenting on the latest engagement, Pakistan said that India was hyping up the strikes for its media and public.

Pakistan called India’s claims of surgical strikes baseless and escalatory. “Such falsified, concocted, and irresponsible statements can only escalate the already fragile security situations in the region,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said.

If India did carry out surgical strikes against Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, it is the first time they have done so publicly. Such attacks are rumored to have been carried out multiple times on both sides over the years though.

The Kashmir region has been a source of tension between Pakistan and India for 70 years. The two nuclear-armed rivals have fought wars over this territory twice in the past, and they came close to third in the 1990s.

While Indian security officials consider escalation unlikely, several villages along the border have already been evacuated.

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