Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Tuesday confirmed that Indian forces had carried out a “non-military preemptive action” against the biggest camp of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed militant outfit earlier in the day. He said the air strikes had become “absolutely necessary in the face of imminent danger”. A large number of terrorists and trainers of the militant outfit were killed in the attack, he said.
This is the first air strike by India across the Line of Control since 1971.
The action came 12 days after a terror attack in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force. The Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility.
Pakistan, however, has denied that India conducted strikes in its territory and has warned of retaliation. Pakistan armed forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor admitted that India entered its territory but claimed no damage was done.
Here is how the day unfolded:
11 pm: A Samajwadi Party leader has called the air strikes on Pakistan “false”, reports PTI. “BJP leaders are liars,” SP leader Vinod Kumar says at a programme in Gonda. “Is the surgical strike anything new? TV channels were airing it today. This (that an air strike will happen) was known for 10 days.”
He also accused the government of “colluding with Pakistan” and deciding to “drop a couple of bombs on an abandoned house”
10.50 pm: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says he has spoken to his UAE counterpart and “expressed reservations” about inviting India to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting scheduled later this week, reports PTI.
10.45 pm: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi apprises US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on “LoC violation” by India, reports PTI. Qureshi tells Pompeo that India is “jeopardising peace in South Asia for its political purposes and elections” and that Pakistan is desirous of peace in the region, but will not compromise on its territorial integrity.
10.25 pm: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat says Indian air strikes are an apt tribute to the 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel killed in the suicide attack in Pulwama, reports ANI.
9.54 pm: “The Election Commission does keep a watch on all the developments which take place,” says Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa. “And we are duty-bound to carry out our mandate which has been given by the Constitution.”
9.53 pm: Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa says the poll body is keeping a tab on developments in the country post the Pulwama terror attack and the Indian air strikes across the border, reports PTI. Lavasa was replying to a question on whether the Election Commission’s schedule for the General Elections would be affected due to the Kashmir terror attack and the air strikes.
9.44 pm: France says it stands by India in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and is “fully committed to mobilising the international community to punish the terrorists responsible for this attack and to block their channels of financing”.
France calls for resumption of bilateral talks between Delhi and Islamabad for a peaceful resolution.
9.42 pm: France calls on India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint” to avert any risk of military escalation in the region. “France recognises India’s legitimacy in ensuring its security against cross-border terrorism and calls on Pakistan to put an end to the activities of the terrorist groups established in its territory,” says a statement issued by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
8.45 pm: Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu hails air strikes on Jaish terror camp across the border. “In the war of right [and] wrong, you can not afford to be neutral, the war against terror outfits is spot on... Bravo Indian Air Force,” he says on Twitter.
Sidhu had faced heavy criticism for his remarks on the Pulwama terror attack. He had asked if an entire nation could be blamed for the actions of a handful of people. This was viewed as a defence of Pakistan and led to severe backlash.
8.15 pm: Narendra Modi met the chiefs of the three wings of the armed forces and congratulated them on the strikes on Pakistan, reports India Today.
7.49 pm: Pakistan minister Fawad Chaudhry says Indian movies will not be released in Pakistan, reports ANI. He says the Cinema Exhibitors Association has boycotted Indian content.
7.43 pm: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh congratulates the government and the Air Force for “exactly translating the the feelings and anger of millions of Indians”.
7.34 pm: Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh says India had given Pakistan many chances. “India had made it clear that terrorism must be eradicated...India was forced to take action so that these things can be stopped,” he tells ANI.
7.28 pm: Pakistan Foreign Office says Indian “aggression was a threat to regional peace and stability and would get a befitting response by Pakistan at a time and place of its choosing.”
7.27 pm: Pakistan summons India’s acting High Commissioner in Islamabad, reports PTI. “The Acting Foreign Secretary summoned the Indian Acting High Commissioner and strongly condemned the Indian violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” says a statement from the Pakistan Foreign Office.
It says “baseless, reprehensible Indian claims of targeting a large terrorist camp and resultant causalities to placate Indian domestic audience and electioneering were strongly rebutted.”
6.54 pm: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj says all parties praised the security forces and supported the government anti-terror operations during the all-party meeting, reports ANI. Swaraj says all parties are united against terror, reports Hindustan Times.
6.49 pm: Ghafoor claims Indian forces wanted to deliberately target civilians. “They wanted to target a place where civilians could have died, so they could claim that they targeted a terrorist camp,” he says. “This would have benefited their [India’s] war mongering and politics.”
6.46 pm: “We will respond differently and we will surprise you [India],” warns Ghafoor. “They [India] are claiming 350 deaths. Even had there been 10 casualties, there would be blood, funeral prayers, injuries...Not even a single brick or debris is present there,” he says.
“A lie has no feet to stand on,” he says, according to Dawn. “You saw their first ‘surgical strike’. I told them [India] that you will never be able to surprise us. We have not been surprised. We were ready, we responded.”
6.43 pm: Spokesperson of Pakistan Armed Forces, Major General Asif Ghafoor, rejects India’s claims that it remained in Pakistan airspace for 21 minutes, reports Geo TV. “Let India come and stay in Pakistani airspace for 21 minutes,” he says at a press conference.
6.35 pm: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad praises efforts of security forces after an all-party meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, reports ANI. “They [security forces] always have our support to end terrorism,” he says. “Another good thing is that it was a clean operation which specifically targeted terrorists and terror camps.”
6.33 pm: A Central Reserve Police Force jawan tells ANI that personnel are celebrating the air strike across the border. “They (Pakistan) have been given a befitting reply, but souls of 40 jawans isn’t at peace yet, their souls will rest in peace only after mastermind of Pulwama attack is killed,” says GD Ratnakar.
6:29 pm: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj says the fight is not against Pakistan, but terror establishments at the all-party meeting, reports NDTV. Swaraj says she has spoken to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and foreign ministers of several countries.
6.23 pm: Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das salutes the Indian Air Force, reports PTI. “This is new India and now terrorism will not be tolerated,” an official statement says. “After todays action, it has been proved that the country is in safe hands under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
6.12 pm: Pakistan violates ceasefire in Nowshera, Akhnoor and Krishna Ghati sectors in Jammu and Kashmir, reports ANI.
6.07 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah says the 2016 surgical strikes and overnight air strikes on Tuesday are a message to the world that India’s soldiers and the government can go to any extent for the country’s security, reports ANI.
“You go to your homes and light a lamp with a pledge to re-elect Modi Ji,” Shah says in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur, according to PTI. “The entire country is celebrating Diwali after the air strike on terrorist camps.”
6.03 pm: Qureshi says helicopters were ready to take local and international media to the “site of the Indian violation”. “If the weather permits, then they will be taken there so they could inspect themselves and expose the Indian propaganda [...] the story being presented is different from the facts.”
5.57 pm: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to “engage with global leadership to expose irresponsible Indian policy in the region”, says the statement of the National Security Committee.
“At the request of Pakistan, there is an OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) conflict group emergency meeting underway [in Jeddah],” says Qureshi. “We will present Pakistan’s point of view at that forum.”
5.54 pm: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says Indian government has resorted to a “self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim” while reading out from a statement of the National Security Committee, reports Dawn. “This action has been done for domestic consumption being in election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk,” says the statement.
5.35 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says God’s blessing are always with India “to save the world from enemies of humanity”, reports ANI. “This is the message we are trying to give to the enemies,” he says at Delhi’s ISKCON temple.
5.29 pm: Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj convenes all-party meeting at Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, reports ANI.
5.26 pm: India briefs envoys of major countries on air strikes against terror camp across the border, reports PTI. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and and other secretaries briefed envoys of the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, says an unidentified official. Envoys of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Turkey and Indonesia were also briefed.
“We are very happy that the Indian government has informed us in a quick and informed way about what happened,” says Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, dean of diplomatic corps in India after meeting Gokhale. “The information is that they did not affect any civilian or any Pakistani military installation.”
5.23 pm: Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says Pakistan will give “befitting reply” to Indian air strike, reports News18.
5.20 pm: The European Union urges “maximum restraint” from India and Pakistan, reports AFP. “We remain in contact with both countries [and] what we believe is essential, is that all exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions,” says an EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic.
5.18 pm: Australia urges India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint, avoid any action which would endanger peace and security in the region and engage in dialogue to ensure that these issues are resolved peacefully”, reports ANI.
5.16 pm: Australia says it is concerned about relations between India and Pakistan after the terror attack in Pulwama on February 14, reports ANI. “Pakistan must take urgent action against terrorist groups in its territory, including JeM which claimed responsibility for February 14 bombing [and] LeT,” says Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne. “It must do everything to implement its own proscription of JeM. It can’t allow extremist groups to operate from its territory.”
5.13 pm: Ram Madhav says the Indian Air Force paid the “real tribute” to the security personnel killed in the Pulwama attack by “destroying terror training camps deep inside Pakistan territory”, reports ANI.
5.11 pm: BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav says the country is in safe hands, reports ANI. “We had political leadership in PM Modi which decided this time to act,” says Madhav. “We acted in a responsible manner, protected India’s interest [and] ensured we didn’t violate international norms.”
5 pm: The Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly lauded the armed forces for carrying out the air strikes, with Speaker Charandas Mahant, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, BJP Legislative Party leader Dharamlal Kaushik and other House members saying they salute the valour of the soldiers.
“The state Assembly hails the bravery and courage of the Indian Air Force,” Mahant said. “The entire House is with our forces.”
Baghel said, “Indian forces are the best in the world and the entire nation is with our forces, which have yet again proved their supremacy.”
4.55 pm: The “non-military preemptive action” by the Indian Air Force jets killed up to 350 terrorists and trainers at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot, officials told PTI. The terrorists had allegedly been moved there for their protection after the Pulwama attack.
4.30 pm: The BSE Sensex ended 240 points lower, at 35,973.71, in the wake of the air strikes carried out by the Indian Air Force jets. The National Stock Exchange Nifty fell 44.80 points, or 0.41%, to close at 10,835.30.
Earlier in the day, the markets had recovered after falling sharply in the morning due to panic among investors.
4.20 pm: The Jammu and Kashmir administration has advised people in the state to stay calm and not believe rumours in the aftermath of the air strikes, according to PTI. In a statement, Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam urged people to remain stress-free and go about their normal activities.
“In case there is anything to be communicated regarding people’s safety and security, the government will do so directly, through media,” he said. “The people are urged to be calm and not to believe in rumours circulating on WhatsApp or other social media.”
4.15 pm: Balakot police chief Saghir Hussain Shah told AP he had sent teams to the area targeted by the Indian jets, describing the site as a mostly deserted wooded area.
“There are no casualties, there are no damages on the ground because of the dropping of the bombs,” he said.
4.10 pm: The Punjab Chief Minister’s Office confirms the state’s border districts have been put on high alert in the wake of the air strikes across the Line of Control. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will visit the border areas on Wednesday for a ground assessment.
4.05 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had last week announced an indefinite fast from March 1 demanding full statehood for Delhi, says he is postponing it in view of the prevailing Indo-Pak situation.
The Aam Aadmi Party leader had earlier said the elected government of Delhi was unable to function and take up development work as it lacked power. He had accused the central government of obstructing its functioning.
3.52 pm: The Indian Air Force used the Mirage 2000 jet for its “non-military pre-emptive action”against the Jaish-e-Mohammed camps. The French-designed fighter jet has been in use by the IAF for more than 30 years and has seen several upgrades over the years.
The Mirage 2000 rose to prominence due to its performance in the 1999 Kargil war.
3.48 pm: Former Army Chief General Bikram Singh describes the air strikes as “surgical strike 2”, according to ANI.
“It was certain it will happen, it was the writing on the wall as the PM had announced it,” he says. “We’ve seen that earlier, when the PM announced after Uri we went in for surgical strike 1. This is surgical strike 2.”
3.45 pm: Security has been shored up in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the air strikes, with troops on high alert.
“The situation is peaceful along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir,” a senior Army official told PTI. “There are no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere.”
3.35 pm: Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan says India has done what any self-respecting country should do in the wake of the Pulwama attack.
“We are proud of what our forces have done for us. They are our shield, and they have behaved exactly like a shield,” said the Makkal Needhi Maiam chief. “We are very proud.”
Haasan was at the centre of a controversy a few days ago for claiming that no soldier would die if politicians in India and Pakistan “behaved properly”. He had also asked why India was scared of holding a plebiscite in Kashmir and had referred to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as “Azad Kashmir” during an event.
3.30 pm: The British government has also called on the two neighbours to pursue diplomatic solutions. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke to both External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday night, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement hours before the air strikes.
“The Foreign Secretary highlighted the UK’s concern about the enduring threat to regional stability from terrorism,” it said. “He encouraged Pakistan and India to improve cooperation and find diplomatic solutions that will create greater stability and trust in the region.”
3.27 pm: China has urged both India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint” and asked New Delhi to carry out its fight against terrorism through international cooperation, according to PTI.
“I want to say that India and Pakistan are both important countries in South Asia,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told the media in Beijing. “A sound relationship and cooperation between the two serves the interests of both the countries and peace and stability in South Asia.”
“We hope that both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint and do more to improve mutual their bilateral relations,” Lu added.
3.20 pm: According to the PTI statement, Khan will engage with global leadership “to expose irresponsible Indian policy in the region”. “The PM appreciated the timely and effective response of PAF [Pakistan armed forces] to repulse Indian attempt without any loss of life or property,” it adds.
3.15 pm: Pakistan PM Imran Khan has summoned a special meeting of the National Command Authority on February 27. He has also directed the armed forces and the people of Pakistan to remain prepared for all eventualities.
The National Command Authority is Pakistan’s highest decision-making body on nuclear and missile policy issues, and oversees all its nuclear and missile programmes.
3.10 pm: Pakistan has rejected India’s claims of targeting the terrorist camp and inflicting multiple casualties during the air strikes.
“This action has been done for domestic consumption being in election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk,” the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said in a statement after a meeting of the National Security Committee chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by senior leaders.
“The forum concluded that India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing,” it said. “To take the nation on board, the government has decided to requisition joint session of the Parliament.”
2.56 pm: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik salutes the air force for the pre-dawn strikes on terror camps “in defence of our nation”.
2.35 pm: The Gujarat Police have issued a “high alert” across the state in the wake of the air strikes, PTI reports. “In view of the action on terrorists across the border by the IAF, all establishments have been put on high alert,” said a message from the office of Director General of Police Shivanand Jha.
Jha also cancelled a conference on crime-related issues in Gandhinagar, directing all officers to return to their respective headquarters.
2.20 pm: Villagers living in the area struck by IAF jets claim one person was injured by bomb shards, according to Reuters. The villagers recall they heard four loud bangs in the early hours of Tuesday, when the Mirage 2000 jets struck the terror camp.
“We saw trees fallen down and one house damaged and four craters where the bombs had fallen,” said Mohammad Ajmal, a 25-year-old who visited the site.
2.15 pm: Welcoming the air strikes, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi says he was expecting this kind of response within two to three days after the Pulwama attack, reports ANI.
“We stand with the government,” he says. “Though the foreign secretary called it non-military action, it’s a step I was expecting the government will take a long time back.”
Owaisi says he hopes that the government will now go after Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed.
2.10 pm: Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy hails the IAF pilots who carried out the air strikes. “I salute our Indian Air Force for their attack on terrorist camps inside Pakistan. The country is proud of you (pilots of IAF),” he has tweeted.
2.05 pm: PM Narendra Modi, at a rally in Rajasthan’s Churu, says, “I assure Indians that the country is in safe hands.”
“I can understand your emotions and excitement,” Modi says in his first remarks after the air strikes. “At this moment, we have to bow down and honour the Pulwama martyrs.”
1.57 pm: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale is briefing diplomats from the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey and six ASEAN nations on the air strikes.
In a press briefing, Gokhale earlier stated India had carried out a “non-military preemptive action” targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp. Read here to know what “non-military preemptive action”, carried out by the air force, means.
1.56 pm: Devendra Fadnavis has allayed concerns of a possible retaliation by Pakistan on the state capital, according to PTI. “Mumbai is always on high alert and citizens need not panic,” the chief minister said.
1.53 pm: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in a resolution unanimously passed by the state Assembly, salutes the Indian Air Force for its bravery. “We feel proud of our armed forces which did not allow the martyrdom of our jawans to go in vain. We proved our might,” he says.
The Legislative Council also unanimously passed a similar resolution, which was moved by House leader Chandrakant Patil. “The entire world wanted revenge for the Pulwama terror attack,” he says.
1.50 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah says the strikes have demonstrated that the country is safe and secure under the “strong and decisive leadership” of PM Narendra Modi.
1.43 pm: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who congratulated the air force, says revenge for the Pulwama attack will not be complete till Masood Azhar is eliminated.
“Indian fighter planes attacked Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” he tweeted in Marathi. “But the revenge will not be complete till Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Azhar Masood is struck down.”
1.37 pm: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami commends PM Narendra Modi for taking “bold” steps against terrorism, according to PTI.
“I extend my greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to whose bold functioning, a successful air strike has been carried out which has demolished terror camps in Pakistan,” Palaniswami says in a statement. Modi is tasting success in rooting out the menace of terrorism, which is threatening the entire world, he adds.
1.34 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who earlier saluted the IAF, says strict action was needed after the Pulwama attack. “The entire country is with the government and the Prime Minister at this time,” he says.
1.32 pm: Yusuf Azhar, alias Mohammad Salim alias Ustad Ghouri, was also wanted by the Interpol.
1.25 pm: Maulana Yusuf Azhar, who ran the Jaish camp in Balakot struck by IAF Mirage jets on Tuesday morning, was one of the men who had hijacked the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 to Kandahar in 1999, The Hindu reports.
Yusuf Azhar is the brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, who had been released by India in exchange for the passengers onboard the hijacked plane.
1.16 pm: People’s Conference chairperson Sajad Gani Lone says the IAF air strikes will set a benchmark for deterrence and eventually end the cycle of violence.
1.13 pm: PM Narendra Modi has briefed both President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu about the strikes, ANI reports, citing sources.
1.08 pm: The Pakistan army, early on Tuesday, violated ceasefire and shelled forward posts along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district, according to PTI. The ceasefire violation, for the fourth consecutive day, occurred even as India conducted the air strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest camp.
According to officials, the Pakistan army fired along the Line of Control in Nowshera sector. No casualties were reported, they added.
1.05 pm: Another Opposition leader, Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress, congratulates the forces for taking action against terrorists. “We have always said that whatever action the forces take for the protection of this nation, all of us will support them in unity, they are taking action against the terrorists in Pakistan,” he says.
1.02 pm: A number of BJP legislators were marshalled out by Assembly Speaker Ram Nivas Goel for reportedly chanting pro-Modi slogans instead of hailing the IAF.
1 pm: Legislators from different parties attending the Delhi Assembly budget session gave a standing ovation to the IAF, according to PTI. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia dedicated the budget to the soldiers who were killed in the Pulwama attack on February 14.
“I am presenting the budget at a time when the country is proud of the IAF strike after the Pulwama attack,” Sisodia says during his budget speech. “This budget is to fulfil the dream of the martyrs, for their families and their children who can gain better education.”
12.56 pm: Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti points out that there have been conflicting reports about the strikes. “Official communique by FS [foreign secretary] claims that terror training camps were bombed while Pakistan denied this and said that the planes made a hasty retreat after being spotted,” says the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister.
12.50 pm: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, at a press briefing earlier, said the strikes had targeted Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp in Balakot, headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghouri, who is the brother-in-law of the outfit’s chief Masood Azhar.
12.40 pm: Retired Lieutenant General DS Hooda, who oversaw the “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control in 2016, compliments the Air Force for carrying out the strike in “an absolutely professional manner”.
“I think it needed to be done,” he says. “I personally had no doubt in my mind after the Pulwama attack that some strong action will be taken by the government.”
Hooda was the Northern Army commander in September 2016 when Indian troops carried out the “surgical strikes” on terror launch pads.
12.35 pm: National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Army Chief Bipin Rawat and IAF Chief BS Dhanoa are reviewing the security situation at the border after the strikes, according to ANI.
12.29 pm: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says the Indian government is in “dire need of winning the upcoming elections, [and] selfish enough, they are willing to create unrest in the entire region”. “Pakistan will use all international forums to expose India while being ready to retaliate to any aggression,” he says.
12.27 pm: “I will term it [the Indian operation] a grave aggression,” Qureshi tells reporters. “The attack is a violation of the Line of Control. Pakistan holds the right to self-defence and proper response.”
12.25 pm: Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi has issued a statement, saying his country has the right to give an appropriate response and the right to self-defence. He told Samaa News that India should not challenge Pakistan, and that Islamabad is fully prepared to respond to any misadventure.
12.21 pm: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has called an all-party meeting at 5 pm, ANI reports.
12.19 pm: National Conference’s Omar Abdullah says he has asked his party colleagues in border areas to “lend all possible help and assistance” to the administration and “any people caught up in any Pakistani misadventure”. He says: “Now we have an obligation to ensure that our people living near the international border and Line of Control are not caught in any Pakistani response. Local administrations need to be ready to evacuate and rehouse people to safe areas if situation escalates.”
12.01 pm: Here are excerpts from the press statement by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary.
In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yusuf Azhar, alias Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar.
The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp. The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. As the strike has taken place only a short while ago, we are awaiting further details.
11.50 am: Gokhale also said the strikes were in locations away from civilian establishments.
11.43 am: The press conference is over after a brief statement, and Gokhale did not take any questions. He said that “in the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike had become absolutely necessary”.
11.38 am: A large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers and senior commanders were eliminated in the operation in Balakot, Gokhale says.
11.37 am: There were heavy casualties during the operation, Gokhale says.
11.34 am: Vijay Gokhale says credible intelligence was received that Jaish-e-Mohammed was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country and fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose.
11.33 am: India struck the biggest terror camp of JeM in Balakot early on Tuesday, Gokhale says, calling it a “non-military pre-emptive” action.
11.31 am: Information has been provided to Pakistan from time to time, but Pakistan has denied this, Gokhale says. Its activities could not have been possible without Pakistan’s knowledge, Gokhale says. Pakistan has taken no concrete action, he adds.
11.31 am: The press conference by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale begins.
11.19 am: The air strikes were based on locations provided by on-ground intelligence, ANI reports.
11.16 am: Air Commodore S Srinivasan of Chandigarh’s Air Force Station tells TV channels that all airfields of the Indian Air Force have been on enhanced alert since the Pulwama attack.
11.13 am: Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Ram Madhav says the political will of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team has “made all the difference”.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati praises the Air Force, but says it would have been better if the Centre had given the armed forces a free hand much earlier.
10.53 am: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale will address the press at 11.30 am. The meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security is over.
10.47 am: Union minister Prakash Javadekar says the strikes were a “necessary step” by the Air Force, reports NDTV. “The armed forces have shown great bravery, congratulations to them,” he says.
10.42 am: Military officials have told ThePrint that the Air Force’s fighter jets bombed three locations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir within 21 minutes, starting at 3.45 am.
Balakot was bombed between 3.45 am and 3.53 am, a location in Muzaffarabad between 3.48 am and 3.55 am, and then one in Chakoti between 3.58 am and 4.04 am, they say. The officials say the joint training camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen in Balakot were targeted.
10.35 am: Some villagers in Manshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tell BBC Urdu that they heard four to five big blasts between 3 am and 4 am on Tuesday. Balakot is in Manshera district.
10.32 am: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has praised the Indian Air Force for the operation. “I salute the bravery of Indian Air Force pilots who have made us proud by striking terror targets in Pakistan,” he tweets.
10.28 am: Union minister GS Shekhawat tweets that the Air Force “carried out aerial strike early morning today at terror camps across the LoC and completely destroyed it”. This is just a beginning, he says.
10.10 am: Unidentified officials have told PTI that the strikes took place in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
10.08 am: Indian markets have fallen sharply in early trade following the reports. The BSE Sensex fell 450.80 points, or 1.24%, to trade at 35,762.58 at 10.03 am. The National Stock Exchange Nifty declined 148 points to trade at 10,732.10.
10.06 am: High-level meetings to discuss the situation are under way in both countries. The Cabinet Committee on Security is meeting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence, ANI reports. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has summoned an emergency meeting in Islamabad, according to Radio Pakistan.
10.02 am: Pakistan’s Major General Asif Ghafoor has now tweeted that Indian aircraft “intruded” three to four miles across the Line of Control into the territory that Pakistan calls “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”, in Muzaffarabad sector. This territory is part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
9.58 am: An official word on the location of the strikes is still awaited, even as Twitter users debate whether the Balakot referred to by Pakistan is the town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, or the village in Poonch.
9.54 am: The Indian Air Force has put on high alert all air defence systems along the international border and Line of Control, ANI reports.
9.50 am: Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy tells ANI the territory that was targeted in the operation lies in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir – but “even if it was their territory, we have under the United Nations charter the right of self-defence”.
9.47 am: Omar Abdullah says it is a “major incursion” and a “significant strike” if the place referred to by Pakistan officially is the Balakot of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “However if it’s Balakote in Poonch sector, along the LoC, it’s a largely symbolic strike because at this time of the year forward launch pads and militant camps are empty & non-functional.”
9.40 am: Congress President Rahul Gandhi says he salutes the pilots of the Indian Air Force.
9.36 am: While there is no official word on India yet about the location of the air strikes, some Twitter users point out that there is a village called Balakot near the Line of Control as well. Balakot is the place where the Indian aircraft dropped payload, according to the Pakistani official account. There have been suggestions that it could be the Balakot town of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
9.32 am: Unidentified officials further tell ANI that the air strikes by the Indian Air Force completely destroyed terror launch pads in Balakot, Chakothi and Muzaffarabad across the Line of Control. Control rooms of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group were also destroyed, they say.
9.28 am: Omar Abdullah also wonders what shape Pakistan’s response will take now. “Where will response be?” he asks on Twitter. “Will India have to respond to Pakistan’s response?”
Meanwhile, more users point out that Balakot is in Pakistan, not in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
9.25 am: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah says if the news is true, “this was not a small strike by any stretch of imagination”. He, however, suggests waiting for an official word from India, should any be forthcoming.
9.24 am: Unidentified officials tell NDTV that the strikes were “100% successful” and went on exactly as planned.
9.10 am: Some Twitter users point out that Balakot, where the Pakistani spokesperson claimed India dropped payload, is in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, not in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
9.05 am: Pakistan’s Major General Asif Ghafoor now posts pictures of what he says is payload that Indian aircraft dropped “in haste while escaping”. Indian officials have told ANI the operation was meant to target terror camps and “completely destroyed” them.
8.58 am: The unidentified Air Force officials told ANI that the operation took place at 3.30 am.
8.45 am: Unidentified officials in the Indian Air Force have told ANI that 12 Mirage 2000 jets “took part in the operation that dropped 1,000 kg bombs on terror camps across Line of Control, completely destroying it”.
8.35 am: About two hours after his first tweet, Ghafoor posted: “Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzaffarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force, [they] released payload in haste while escaping, which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage.”
8.30 am: Early on Tuesday, Pakistan’s armed forces claimed that the Indian Air Force had violated the Line of Control. Spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said the aircraft had returned after the Pakistan Air Force responded.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been tense since a terror attack on a convoy of security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, in which 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed. Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack.
A day after the attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised a strong reply to the perpetrators and said the security forces have been given a free hand in the wake of the attack. Pakistan has denied any involvement in the attack, and Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday urged Modi to “give peace a chance”. He has promised action if India provides “actionable evidence”.