It’s the biggest escalation between South Asia’s nuclear-armed rivals in decades and with a bitterly contested national election in India just weeks away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to exploit his military’s air strikes on a terrorist camp inside Pakistan Tuesday.
Speaking to a huge, cheering crowd at an election rally in the state of Rajasthan, Modi twice stated that India was “in safe hands” and declared it a “glorious day,” without explicitly mentioning the attack.
India’s fighter jets destroyed a major terrorist camp in Pakistan early Tuesday “in the face of imminent danger,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in New Delhi. More than 300 people were killed in the air strikes on militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, according to an Indian official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pakistan had its own version of events.
After scrambling its jets in response to India’s early-morning incursion across the border, it released photographs of missile remnants it said had fallen on unoccupied territory. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office said Pakistan would respond “at the time and place of its choosing,” rejecting India’s claim that it had hit a terror camp or inflicted heavy casualties. “Once again the Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” a statement from Khan’s office said.
Facing the first major geopolitical challenge of his term, Khan directed the country’s armed forces and the public to “remain prepared for all eventualities.”
With both nations able to demonstrate a show of military strength, it now gives diplomats a chance to try and ensure the situation does not further deteriorate.
Relations between the two countries have been tense since a Feb. 14 suicide car bombing in Kashmir, claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, killed 40 members of India’s security forces.
The question now is how will Pakistan respond.