Pakistan alleges India preparing for ‘surgical strike’

Foreign Minister Qureshi warns that Pakistan would strike back ‘a notch above’ if it was attacked by India.

Pakistan army soldiers patrol at a forward area Bagsar post on the Line of Control (LOC), that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, in Bhimber, some 166 kilometers (103 miles) from Islamabad, P
The two countries frequently accuse each other of sponsoring armed groups or planning attacks against the other [File: Anjum Naveed/AP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s government has alleged that India is preparing to launch a “surgical [military] strike” on Pakistani soil and has called for the international community to help de-escalate the situation between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Speaking to the press in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi on Friday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi warned that Pakistan would retaliate if attacked.

“I have learned through our intelligence sources and they have picked up this information that India is planning a surgical strike against Pakistan,” said Qureshi.

“This is a serious development and I also have knowledge that they have tried to seek tacit approval from important players who they consider to be their partners.”

The two countries have fought three full-scale wars since gaining independence from the British in 1947, with tensions remaining high in the relationship in the intervening periods.

Both have been on a high state of military alert since a standoff in February 2019 that saw India bomb territory just inside Pakistan’s borders and Pakistan shoot down an Indian fighter jet.

Pakistan later returned the pilot of the downed fighter aircraft, helping to reduce the immediate tensions.

Foreign Minister Qureshi warned that Pakistan would strike back at India “a notch above” if attacked.

“I want to tell India very clearly that Pakistan is fully prepared to respond and to defeat their designs,” he said.

“We will do it effectively as we did respond immediately and effectively in February 2019. And we will respond effectively if they choose this path.”

India’s government did not offer any immediate comment on the allegations.

Pakistan’s national security adviser Moeed Yusuf said Pakistan had obtained “very specific and reliable intelligence” of the Indian plans to launch strikes.

“We remind the world that peace is a collective responsibility. The world must prevent India from destabilising the region in its attempt to divert attention from its domestic troubles,” said Yusuf.

The two countries frequently accuse each other of sponsoring armed groups or planning attacks against the other.

In September 2016, India claimed to have carried out a “surgical strike” on Pakistan-administered Kashmir to hit armed groups linked to an earlier attack on Indian security forces in Uri town in the Indian-administered Kashmir.

At the time, Pakistan denied Indian forces had ever entered Pakistan-controlled territory.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s military and the foreign ministry said Indian forces fired on and damaged a UN vehicle in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Friday.

“[The] Indian Army resorted to unprovoked fire in Chirikot Sector of LOC [Line of Control]. Indian troops deliberately targeted a United Nations vehicle with [two] military observers on board,” the military said in a statement.

The military also released images purportedly showing a bullet hole and other damage on the vehicle.

The UN has so far not offered any comment on the incident.

‘Catastrophic consequences’

Last month, Pakistan shared an intelligence dossier with the international community which it said contained evidence of Indian sponsorship of armed groups operating on Pakistani soil.

While such allegations by both sides are common, the revelations were unprecedented in their specificity, including audio recordings and documents said to be tied to specific attacks, armed groups and armed groups’ leaders.

Qureshi said the international community had been made aware of the Pakistani intelligence.

“We have communicated this to important capitals,” he said. “We have shared the information that we have picked up with important capitals and they are fully aware of Indian designs and our resolve.”

He warned that any Indian attack on Pakistan could have “catastrophic consequences” and would “seriously undermine” the intra-Afghan peace process, which began in September and which Pakistan has been facilitating.

“In our opinion, Pakistan feels that if they undertake this misadventure, it will seriously undermine the Afghan peace process, which has moved forward and if things go wrong, India would be held responsible for this,” he said.

“I urge the global community to caution India to refrain and desist. And to not test Pakistan’s resolve.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @asadhashim.

Source: Al Jazeera