India on Sunday rejected Pakistan’s statement that it had information that New Delhi will attack it as “irresponsible and preposterous”. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s statement had a “clear objective of whipping up war hysteria in the region”, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

“We have reliable intelligence that India is planning a new attack on Pakistan,” Qureshi had told mediapersons in Multan on Sunday. “As per our information this could take place between April 16 and 20.” Qureshi did not elaborate on the evidence that Pakistan had.

“A new mishap could be staged...And its purpose will be to justify their [India’s] offensive against Pakistan and to increase diplomatic pressure against Islamabad,” Qureshi had said. “If it happens, you can imagine the impact of the occurrence on the peace and stability of the region.” Qureshi added that Pakistan had already briefed the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members over the matter.

This “irresponsible and preposterous statement” by Pakistan is a “public gimmick” that appears to be “a call to Pakistan-based terrorists to undertake a terror attack in India”, the ministry said.

“It has been made clear to Pakistan that it cannot absolve itself of responsibility of a cross border terrorist attack in India,” the ministry’s statement added. “No attempt at creating an alibi for its complicity in such attacks will succeed. Pakistan needs to take credible and irreversible steps against terrorism operating from all territories under its control rather than making hysterical statements to obfuscate the core issue that bedevils our region: cross-border terrorism.”

“Pakistan has been advised to use established diplomatic and DGMO [Director General of Military Operations] channels to share any actionable and credible intelligence it has about imminent terror attacks,” the statement added. “India reserves the right to respond firmly and decisively to any cross border terrorist attack.”

Strained ties

Relations between the two countries have been strained since a suicide bomber killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14. Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. On February 26, India claimed to have carried out air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Pakistan’s Balakot. A day after the cross-border strike, India and Pakistan engaged in aerial skirmishes.

On February 27, the Pakistani military claimed it had shot down two Indian Air Force jets – one had crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir. India maintained that Pakistan shot down only one MiG-21 aircraft while the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the dogfight.

During the same skirmish, Pakistan had captured Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was released and returned home on March 1.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Saturday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of “whipping up war hysteria” to win the Lok Sabha elections. “The truth always prevails and is always the best policy,” Khan tweeted. “BJP’s attempt to win elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claims of downing a Pakistani F-16 has backfired with US Defence officials also confirming that no F-16 was missing from Pakistan’s fleet.”

Khan’s comments came days after the Foreign Policy magazine, citing two unidentified US senior defence officials, claimed that India’s assertion about shooting down the Pakistan F-16 fighter aircraft was untrue. But the Indian Air Force and the defence ministry have dismissed the report.