In perhaps the worst flare of tensions between India and Pakistan in two decades, Indian fighter jets bombed Pakistani-controlled territory on Tuesday in a dispute over the contested region of Kashmir.
The attack came 12 days after 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a suicide bombing on Feb. 14 in the Pulwama district of Kashmir. It was the deadliest attack in the insurgency that has raged for 30 years in the contested Himalayan region that borders the two countries.
With Indian elections approaching this spring, India’s retaliation threatens to escalate tensions which are already at boiling point. India and Pakistan already went to war over Kashmir back in 1999, and now, each is ready to point nuclear missiles at the other.
The situation is more fraught than it has been for decades, analysts say. On Feb. 21, India threatened to cut off water supply to Pakistan, and two days later said it would send 10,000 extra troops into Indian-administered Kashmir. At least 40 incidents of violence against Kashmiris were recorded across India in the days following the attack.
The two sides gave contesting versions of events on Tuesday. India said that “a large number” of militants were killed by the Indian air strike, which it said was targeted at a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the terrorist organization that claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 suicide bombing.
The camp, New Delhi said, was in Balakot — an area inside territory that both sides agree to be Pakistan. The Associated Press quoted residents from a village nearby who said they heard explosions.
But Pakistan rejected India’s description of the attack, instead saying that the Indian jets were forced into a “hasty withdrawal” by the Pakistani air force, and that the bombs were dropped onto an open area, causing no casualties. Pakistan released pictures on social media showing what appeared to be a blast site in a forested area.