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September 23, 2016

Indian army denies cross-border raid
on Pakistan controlled Kashmir

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Indian Army sources have denied reports in a web magazine that Indian forces had crossed over the Line of Control near Uri to avenge the killing of 18 of its soldiers killed in Uri last week. The Times of India quoted the Indian Army sources as saying that no such action had been undertaken and the account was incorrect.

In the early morning on Sept 18, armed militants entered an Indian army base in the garrison town of Uri killing 18 soldiers. Several hours later, four militants were killed in a shootout with the Indian army.

The attack, which took place near the de facto border between India and Pakistan in the disputed region, was one of the deadliest on an army base in Kashmir since militant attacks began in 1989, according to CNN.

The attack in Uri follows an assault in January against India’s Pathankot air base, which was also blamed on cross-border militants from Pakistan.

A report in published Wednesday claimed that two units of the army's elite 2 Paras conducted the operation in the Uri sector and attacked three militant camps in Pakistan controlled Kashmir.

"Two units of the elite 2 Paras comprising 18-20 soldiers flew across the LoC in the Uri sector in military helicopters and carried out an operation that killed at least 20 suspected terrorists across three terror camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)."

The operation happened during the intervening hours of 20 September and 21 September, according to The Quint.

A war of words erupted on India television and social media, and carried over to print and online Indian publications. The thrust of the babble was revenge or the need to ‘teach a lesson’ to Pakistan.

However, the official Indian response to the Uri terrorist attack was a more measured one.

After Pakistan’s high commissioner to India Abdul Basit was called in by the Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar, the Indian foreign affairs ministry issued a statement that ended with: “If the Government of Pakistan wishes to investigate these cross-border attacks, India is ready to provide fingerprints and DNA samples of terrorists killed in the Uri and Poonch incidents. We now expect a response from the Government of Pakistan.”

A military response from India towards Pakistan  raises the specter of escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals, who have fought three conflicts since the partition of the sub-continent in August 1947. 

Pakistan has said it "categorically rejects" any involvement in the raid, calling Indian statements of its complicity "vitriolic and unsubstantiated." On Monday, Pakistan’s army chief said the armed forces were closely watching the region and were prepared to respond to any threats from India.

India’s options are limited, though. Airstrikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed camps, for example, are likely unfeasible given Pakistan’s air defenses and the possibility they might prompt further escalation, Ramani Hariharan, a former Indian army intelligence officer, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. 

There is also the risk Beijing -- which is pursuing a $45-billion strategic project called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that traverses Pakistan-controlled Kashmir -- might get involved, Sinha said. China might begin agitating on its own contested border with India in the Himalayas near Ladakh, he added. China and India fought a border war in 1962.

The Uri incident has overshadowed the issue of Indian Army's brutal operation in the Indian controlled Kashmir, particularly the recent uprising triggered by the killing of Kashmiri leader, Burhan Wani on July 8.

On Wednesday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif handed over a dossier containing details of Indian atrocities against civilians in India-held Kashmir to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and briefed him on gross human rights violations being committed in the region by Indian forces.

Nawaz Sharif told the UN chief that human rights violations by Indian forces have resulted in over 100 deaths and thousands of injuries over the past 74 days.

The dossier which was handed over to Ban Ki-moon contained photographic evidence of Kashmiri victims of pellet guns used by Indian forces, according to Dawn. The Pakistan Prime Minister, who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session, emphasized that India must be urged to abide by UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir and also reiterated his demand of an independent inquiry into extra-judicial killings, demanding a UN fact-finding mission be sent to investigate the situation in the Indian controlled Kashmir.

Nawaz Sharif's meeting with Ban Ki-moon comes after the premier addressed the UN General Assembly in New York City. In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan wants peace with India but maintained it is "not possible without resolving the Kashmir issue".

The latest flare up  between India and Pakistan came after India asked Pakistan to vacate what it called an "illegal occupation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir." While replying to statements made by the Pakistani delegation on Indian-administered Kashmir during the 33rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the UN in Geneva Ajit Kumar said:

"We, once again, ask Pakistan to ...... refrain from meddling in our internal affairs in any manner. We call upon the Council to urge Pakistan to fulfill its obligation to vacate illegal occupation of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir."

Ajit Kumar also brought up the issue of Balochistan, the restive province of Pakistan, where a low intensity civil war is going on. He alleged that "Pakistan systematically abused and violated the human rights of its own citizens, including in Balochistan." The Indian delegate also announced that India will provide political asylum to the Balochi rebels.

Pakistan has accused India of fomenting insurgency in Balochistan through anti-state elements like Brahmdagh Bugti, the grandson of Akbar Bagti who was killed by army in 2006. See also:

Balochistan: The Indian Connection: India offers political asylum to Baloch secessionist leaders