India said on Thursday it had conducted “surgical strikes” on suspected militants preparing to infiltrate from Pakistan-ruled Kashmir, making its first direct military response to an attack on an army base it blames on Pakistan.
Pakistan said two of its soldiers had died in exchanges of fire and efforts to repulse Indian troops, but denied that India had made any targeted strikes across the de facto frontier that runs through the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. The cross-border action inflicted significant casualties, the Indian army’s head of operations told reporters in New Delhi, while a senior government official said Indian soldiers had crossed the border to target militant camps.
The Indian announcement followed through on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning that those responsible “would not go unpunished” for a Sept. 18 attack on an Indian army base at Uri, near the Line of Control, that killed 18 soldiers. The strikes also raised the possibility of a military escalation between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan that would wreck a 2003 Kashmir ceasefire.
Lt General Ranbir Singh, the Indian army’s director general of military operations, said the strikes were launched on Wednesday based on “very specific and credible information that some terrorist units had positioned themselves … with an aim to carry out infiltration and terrorist strikes”.Singh said he had called his Pakistani counterpart to inform him of the operation.The top spokesman for the Pakistani military slammed the Indian account of its action as “totally baseless and completely a lie”.
Pakistan said nine of its soldiers had also been wounded. Neither side’s account could be independently verified. India’s disclosure of such strikes was unprecedented, said Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, and sent a message not only to his own people but to the international community.