Pakistan’s newly appointed army chief has said the military is ready to defend the country if attacked as he visited the Line of Control (LoC), which divides the disputed Kashmir region.
“Let me make it categorically clear, Pakistan’s armed forces are ever ready, not only to defend every inch of our motherland, but to take the fight back to the enemy if ever war is imposed on us,” Lieutenant General Asim Munir said on Saturday, according to a statement released by the military’s media wing.
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“Indian state will never be able to achieve her nefarious designs,” he said.
India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Munir made the visit days after he took charge of Pakistan’s powerful military.
India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in late October that New Delhi was ready to reach Gilgit-Baltistan, a semi-autonomous region in Pakistan. India says Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Kashmir and is illegally occupied by Pakistan.
Islamabad called Singh’s statement “ridiculous” and said it represents New Delhi’s expansionist mindset and hostility towards its neighbour.
Both South Asian nuclear powers claim all of Kashmir but govern only parts of it. They have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.
Both sides often accuse each other of breaching a 2003 ceasefire by shelling and firing across the Line of Control, a 740km (460-mile) de facto border that cuts Kashmir into two. Since early 2021, the LoC has been mostly quiet after the renewal of the ceasefire.
Pakistan’s generals retain a strong influence over security matters and foreign affairs, according to analysts.
“The sharp rhetoric on India was predictable as the new chief would want to set a strong tone,” Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist tweeted.
But he said it was “still notable, given that public messaging on India was fairly subdued during the final period of Bajwa’s time as Army chief,” a reference to General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retired last week.