NEW DELHI – The Indian Army on Sunday carried out heavy artillery strikes targeting four militant launch pads and several Pakistani military positions in Neelam Valley in Pakistan controlled Kashmir (PcK), killing 6-10 of their soldiers and as many militants, according to Army Chief Bipin Rawat.
The Indian retaliation came a day after Pakistan military resorted to firing in Tangadhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir along the Line of Control to assist infiltration by militants, killing two Indian Army personnel and a civilian. Three others were also injured in the attack.
The retaliation has caused substantial harm to the militant infrastructure across the Line of Control (LoC), Rawat told reporters on the sidelines of an event.
“So far, as per the information available with us, 6-10 Pakistani soldiers have been killed and nearly as many terrorists,” the Army Chief said, adding that more information on terrorist casualty was being obtained.
“Three terror camps have been destroyed and on the fourth one also, we have caused severe damage,” he said.
If Pakistan continued with such activities, the Indian Army would not hesitate to retaliate, the Army chief asserted.
The sources said the four militant launch pads were in Neelam Valley, opposite the Tangdhar sector, and that 10-15 militants were staying in each of the facilities at the time of the attack, the most significant offensive since India carried out the Balakot strike in February.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to the Army Chief following the Indian offensive and he has been keeping an eye on the evolving situation along the LoC, government sources said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal denied that the Indian Army targeted militant camps in the PcK and said it can arrange a visit of diplomats from P5 nations to the area to expose Indian “falsehood”.
Spokesperson of Pakistan Military Major General Asif Ghafoor, in a series of tweets, claimed a total of five Pakistani civilians were killed in the Indian strikes.
Pakistan also summoned Indian envoy Gaurav Ahluwalia to condemn the firing by Indian troops.
“Targeting innocent civilians by Indian Army is an attempt to justify their false claims of targeting alleged camps,” Ghafoor alleged and also claimed that nine Indian soldiers killed and two Indian bunkers were destroyed by Pakistan Army.
A senior Indian Army official rejected Ghafoor’s allegations and claim.
In a statement, the Indian Army said “Pakistani Army initiated unprovoked cease fire violations to assist infiltration by terrorists into Indian territories in the Tangadhar sector last evening.”
“As a result calibrated escalation of area weapons was undertaken by the Indian side in which terrorist launch pads and several Pakistan Army posts giving incidental protection to these launch pads and certain gun positions were hit,” it said.
It said “Indian Army retains the right to respond at a time and place of its choosing in case Pakistan Army continues to assist terrorist activities across Indian borders.”
Rawat said, “Ever since the abrogation of special provisions (for Jammu and Kashmir), we are getting repeated inputs about infiltration by terrorists from across the border.”
The sources said Pakistan has been trying to push militants into Kashmir to trigger unrest.
Soon after government announced its decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, the Army was put on high alert along the LoC to effectively repulse any possible Pakistani misadventure.
The sources said “the pounding of Pakistani positions and terror camps cannot in any way be compared to surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army in September 2016 across the Line of Control. However, the offensive was the most significant one after India carried out the Balakot strike in February.”
On February 26, India carried out an aerial strike in Pakistan’s Balakot, in response to Pulwama deadly attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Pakistan Air Force retaliated the next day and downed a MiG-21 Bison in an aerial combat besides capturing IAF pilot Varthaman, who was handed over to India on March 1.
Proud of our Army’s valour: Cong on artillery strikes across LoC
The Congress on Sunday hailed the Army’s action of destroying militant camps across the LoC, saying it is proud of the armed forces’ valour.
“Another spectacular campaign in the direction of destroying terrorist camps across the border by the brave Indian Army. We are proud of your valour and courage,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said in a tweet.
Asked about the exchange of firing at the border, Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja, at a press conference here, said, “The Indian Army has always kept India’s borders safe. We are proud of our army and we have full confidence on the armed forces that they will protect our borders. Our army is fully capable.”