Pakistan on Sunday rejected India’s assertion that it had a hand in the terror attack on an army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 17 soldiers, saying New Delhi should share “actionable intelligence” on the incident with Islamabad.
Soon after Indian home minister Rajnath Singh pointed a finger at Pakistan for its “continued and direct support” to terror groups, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria dismissed the accusation.
“India immediately puts blame on Pakistan without doing any investigation. We reject this,” Zakaria told Reuters.
A statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistan Army’s media wing, later in the day referred to the hotline contact between the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) and sought intelligence on the terror attack.
“Refuting the unfounded and premature Indian allegations, the Pakistan DGMO asked his counterpart to share any actionable intelligence,” the statement said.
The latest situation on the Line of Control was discussed and the Pakistan DGMO “reiterated that no infiltration is allowed from Pakistan’s soil because water tight arrangements were in place on both sides of LoC/working boundary all along”, the statement added.
In a late night tweet, defence minister Khawaja Asif said “blaming Pak for Uri & any attempt to escalate tension to deflect attention frm state terrorism in Kashmir will prove expensive for Indians”.
The Uri attack was extensively covered by Pakistani news channels and Foreign Office officials privately said that Pakistan condemns the attack. “We condemn terrorist actions in all forms,” said an official.
The brazen attack at Uri, which resulted in one of the highest casualties for the Indian Army in a single day during peace time, added to tensions that were triggered by the assault on Pathankot airbase in January. That attack was blamed by India on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the nation that “those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished” while Singh called for the isolation of Pakistan as a “terrorist state”.
Bilateral tensions have been exacerbated by the unrest in Kashmir triggered by the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani and Modi’s raising of rights violations by Pakistani security forces in Balochistan.
The two countries have been engaged in a war of words for several weeks and are expected to clash on the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who left for New York on Saturday, has outlined his plans to focus on rights violations in Kashmir, and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to give a “befitting” response.
Adding to the uncertainty in bilateral relations were remarks by defence minister Asif that Pakistan would not hesitate to use its tactical nuclear weapons in the event of an attack by India. However, Asif made the comments in an interview with Geo News channel that was recorded before the Uri attack and aired on Saturday night.
Asif’s remarks were aired again after the Uri attack by Geo News and picked up by the Indian media.
In response to a question about the possibility of hostilities with India, Asif said: “I don’t think there is any immediate threat (of a war with India) but as Allah has said in the Quran, the horses should be ready. Our readiness should be complete at all times…The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Asif added, “We are always pressurised time and again that our tactical (nuclear) weapons, in which we have a superiority, that we have more tactical weapons than we need. It is internationally recognised that we have a superiority and if there is a threat to our security or if anyone steps on our soil and if someone’s designs are a threat to our security, we will not hesitate to use those weapons for our defence.”
Asked if tactical nuclear weapons could be used against India, he replied: “This depends on the situation…but if our defence and survival is in danger, then we should use everything, what is there to fear?”
Pakistan says it developed tactical nuclear weapons and special short-range missiles to deliver them to counter India’s Cold Start war doctrine which reportedly envisages lightning thrusts into enemy territory by small mobile military units.
Pakistani analysts condemned the Uri attack but at the same time drew parallels to the situation in Kashmir. A pro-army Twitter handle posted: “Indian media conveniently ignored the blatant murder of the #Kashmiri people by the Indian Military, where was the outrage?”
Follow our coverage of the Uri attack here