Indian jets bomb targets within Pakistan


India has dramatically escalated tensions with neighbouring Pakistan, sending combat jets over the border to strike targets linked to Kashmiri dissidents.

India’s targets are believed to have been in the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a significant distance over the Line of Control demarking the two nations’ influence over the contested area.

Unconfirmed reports out of India suggest up to 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets crossed the disputed border between India and Pakistan, which embraces the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu, about 3.30am local time. India Today reports the combat jets targeted terror camps and launch pads around Balakot, dropping 1000kg bombs.

If the strikes are confirmed, this will be the first time India’s Air Force has crossed into Pakistan since 1971.

Pakistan’s initial response to the raid was to dismiss its significance, stating India’s bombs fell on nothing of importance. An official public statement is yet to be made, however.

If reports of the use of the Mirage 2000 jet fighter are correct, it raises a risky aspect to the raid: The jet is capable of deploying nuclear weapons. Any advance by these jets could be construed by Pakistan as a nuclear first strike.

The air strike comes amid high tensions between India and Pakistan following the February 14 suicide car bombing of a paramilitary convoy by a local Kashmiri militant. Forty Indian soldiers died in the attack.

India quickly blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a “jawbreaking response.”

Pakistan warned India against linking it to the attack without an investigation, and offered dialogue to resolve all issues, including Kashmir.

Indian police have since been mainly targeting Kashmir’s largest political-religious group, Jama’at-e-Islami. The group is dedicated to the right to self-determination for the Himalayan region, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety.

Residents fear the crackdown could be a prelude to a military strike by India against Pakistan or tinkering with Kashmir’s special status in India’s constitution.

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media_cameraAn Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS) aircraft is escorted by Sukhoi SU-30s during a flying display. Picture: AFP

BORDER CLASH

Three rebels, a counter insurgency police officer and an army soldier were killed Sunday during a gunbattle in Kashmir, officials said, as shops and businesses shut down to protest a sweeping and ongoing crackdown against activists seeking the end of Indian rule in the disputed region.

The fighting triggered large anti-India protests and clashes as hundreds of residents thronged the village of Turigam in the southern Kulgam area and barraged troopswith stones. An army officer and two other soldiers were injured in the fighting, which was still raging later yesterday.

Government forces opened fire with shotguns and tear gas to quell the protesters, injuring at least half a dozen civilians, residents and emergency workers said.

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media_cameraPakistani traders carry banners and placards as they chant slogans during an anti-India protest rally in Islamabad. Picture: AFP

Police and paramilitary soldiers also patrolled streets in Srinagar, the region’s main city, and enforced a security lockdownin its downtown area in anticipation of protests and clashes.

Carrying automatic rifles and wearing riot gear, soldiers and police erected iron barricades and laid razor wire on roadsand intersections to cut off neighbourhoods.

Indian authorities have so far arrested at least 400 Kashmiri leaders and activists, escalating fears among already wary residents that a sweeping crackdown could touch off renewed anti-India protests and clashes. They are detained in police stations and jails across Kashmir.

Indian authorities rushed about 10,000 additional paramilitary soldiers to the already highly militarised Kashmir Valley. Indian soldiers are ubiquitous in Kashmir and local residents make little secret of their fury toward the presence of the soldiers in the Himalayan region, calling them an occupying force.

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media_cameraA Pakistani soldier watch movement of Indian forces along the Line of Control from a Chakoti post, 50 kilometres from Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir. Picture: AP

State Gov. Satya Pal Malik said in a statement Sunday that the additional troops were deployed for India’s general election, due in the next few months. Referring to the crackdown, he said: “This is purely related to the (February 14) attack. The response of security forces is guided solely by the need to counter both the impact and any further action that may be taken by terrorist groups who are still out to disrupt our country.”

Rebels have been fighting since 1989 against Indian control in Kashmir. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and ensuing crackdown. Most Kashmiris supportthe rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

Originally published as Nuclear powers in border clash





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