The Indian Army's Director General of Military Operations Ranbir Singh said on Thursday that the Army had carried out "surgical strikes on terror launchpads" across the Line of Control the previous night. Speaking at a rare joint press conference called by the Ministry of Defence and the External Affairs Ministry, Singh said India had received information about infiltrators planning to cross the LoC and decided to take action.
Pakistan, however, said that India was deliberately and erroneously using the term surgical strikes to describe existing "cross-border fire" operations in an effort to "create false effects" and "media hype". A surgical strike is a military attack aimed to harm only the target and ensure minimal collateral damage to general public infrastructure and utilities around the intended target.
Only hours after the press conference, Pakistan reportedly captured an Indian soldier who had inadvertently crossed the disputed Kashmir border. "It is confirmed one soldier from 37 Rashtriya Rifles with weapons has inadvertently crossed over to the Pakistan side of the Line of Control," an Indian army official told Reuters. The Indian Army is yet to confirm the development.
'To ensure terrorists do not succeed'
"Based on very specific and credible information which we received yesterday, that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launchpads along the Line of Control, with an aim to carry out infiltration and terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and various other metros in our country, the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launchpads," Singh said. "The operations were basically focused to ensure that these terrorists do not succeed in their design of infiltration and carrying out destruction and endangering the lives of the citizens of our country."
According to ANI, unnamed Army officials said seven "terror launchpads" were destroyed by the Indian Army across the LoC. The agency reported that Army special forces were "para-dropped" and that multiple terror groups were targeted.
The agency reported that Punjab villages located 10 km from the International Border with Pakistan were being evacuated. Additional personnel of the Border Security Forces were also deployed in the region, according to ANI. The BSF also called off the daily beating retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border. The Indian Navy suspended certain activities of the Western Naval Command following the development. In the wake of the growing tension between the two countries, the navy has decided to call off sessions where civilians could visit ships on October 1, 2 and 3. ANI reported.
"During the operations significant casualties have been suffered by terrorists," Singh said. He added that there have been at least 20 infiltration attempts from the Pakistan side along the Line of Control, despite India's "persistent urging" to stop its territory from being used by militant groups. Agencies reported that at least two Pakistani soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire near the border. There have been no official confirmations of any other deaths, so far.
Pakistan immediately put out strong messages condemning the Indian operations, but said it was not a surgical strike but "cross-border fire". Unnamed officials told ANI that Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit had received threatening calls after reports on the surgical strikes, and they had informed the Indian External Affairs Ministry.
Centre calls all-party meeting, MFN talks postponed
The Centre has called an all-party meeting at 4 pm on Thursday to discuss the strikes by the Army. President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Former PM Manmohan Singh, Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra, and the state's Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti have been briefed on the Army operations. The External Affairs Ministry on the same day briefed envoys of different nations about India's position regarding the incident, ANI reported.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had convened a meeting with the Cabinet Committee on Security to take stock of the situation along the Line of Control. Singh was present at that meeting as well. Another meeting scheduled to review Pakistan's status as a "Most Favoured Nation" on Thursday has been postponed for next week, ANI reported.
The review meet, which was to be chaired by Modi and attended by officials from the ministries of defence and external affairs, is a reaction to the attack on an Army facility in Jammu and Kashmir's Uri, which India believes came from Pakistan. No reason for the rescheduling has been announced.
Pakistan was awarded the MFN status in 1996, under the World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which ensures that signatories treat each other as favoured trading partners. Withdrawing the status, however, will reportedly have a negligible impact on bilateral trade with Pakistan, which accounts for only 0.4% of the country's overall goods trade, according to The Indian Express.
Relations between the rival counties worsened after the Uri attack that took place on September 18. During the review meeting on the Indus Waters Treaty, Modi said that "blood and water cannot flow together", referring to the multiple infiltration attempts staged by militants from across the border and other attacks on India carried out by radicals from Pakistan. The treaty determines how water from six rivers that pass through the two countries will be shared. Modi recently held meetings to review trade relations and the Indus Waters Treaty with Islamabad.
On September 21, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, said India had posed "unacceptable preconditions" for dialogue. India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in her own UNGA address, said nations not willing to join the fight against terrorism should be isolated.