India on Tuesday launched airstrikes across its border with Pakistan in a military escalation after a terror attack in Kashmir left 40 Indian troops dead, and Pakistan immediately convened a meeting of its nuclear commanders.
Gun fighting on the ground broke out along India and Pakistan’s de facto border after what Vipin Narang, an MIT professor and an expert on the two country’s conventional and nuclear forces, called “India’s most significant airstrike against Pak in half a century.”
The strikes happened after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unleashed the military to respond however it saw fit after the terror attack, which India blames on Islamic militants based in Pakistan.
India and Pakistan, which have been engaged in a bitter rivalry for decades, have fought three wars over the disputed territory, and analysts are closely watching the crisis for clues about whether it could escalate from airstrikes to a heightened nuclear posture.
Pakistan denies any involvement in the terror attack but swiftly “took control” of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant camp in question.
India said its airstrikes killed as many as 300 Muslim separatist militants, but it is unclear whether the attack had any effect. Pakistan said its air force scrambled fighter jets and chased India off, forcing the jets to hastily drop their bombs in an unpopulated area, and Pakistan’s prime minister called India’s claims “fictitious.”
For the mission, India flew its Mirage 2000 jets, which it uses as part of its nuclear deterrence. The jets dropped more than 2,000 pounds of laser-guided bombs, according to News18.com. As a branch of India’s nuclear forces, the Mirage 2000 fleet has some of the most ready aircraft and pilots, India Today reported.
The strike took place about 30 miles deep into Pakistan’s territory in a town called Balakot, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a press conference.
“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said. The US has similarly accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists and backed India’s right to self-defense after the terror attack.