India-Pakistan tensions escalate after reported raids on 'terrorist camps' in Kashmir

India-Pakistan tensions escalate after reported raids on 'terrorist camps' in Kashmir

India-Pakistan tensions escalate after reported raids on 'terrorist camps' in Kashmir

Updated 30 September 2016, 6:30 AEST

India's military has taken the rare step of publicly crossing the two countries' de-facto border to strike at what it says were suspected terrorist camps in Pakistan.

India's military has taken the rare step of publicly crossing the two countries' de-facto border to strike at what it says were suspected terrorist camps in Pakistan, a move which has raised fears of heightened conflict between the nuclear rivals.

Key points:

  • India hits back after September 18 army base attack
  • India says 'surgical strikes' inflict serious casualties
  • Pakistan says India's account 'totally baseless'

The military has not given specific details of casualties, but official sources say they were in "double digits".

India said it carried out the operation because it believed suspected terrorists camped near the line of control dividing the disputed Kashmir region were planning to cross into Indian territory and attack Indian cities.

India's director general of military operations, Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, said India acted because it had "specific and credible information" that "terrorist units had positioned themselves … with an aim to carry out infiltration and terrorist strikes".

Pakistan has officially denied that India has conducted any cross-border raid, but said two Pakistani soldiers were killed in what it described as "cross-border firing", for which it has vowed to respond.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned what he called "unprovoked and naked aggression" by India.

Pressure building between neighbours

India has been under intense domestic pressure to act after four gunmen killed 18 Indian soldiers at Uri, a base in Kashmir, nearly two weeks ago — the deadliest assault on its forces in over a decade.

It blamed Pakistan for the attack, saying the gunmen were well-trained, heavily armed and carrying Pakistan-marked equipment.

India has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring militants who attack Indian forces along the disputed border.

India and Pakistan both claim the Kashmir region, but each administers separate parts. Two of the three wars between them have been over Kashmir.

Following the Uri attack, most analysts had opined that India's military options were limited, for fear of escalation.

Since the attack on its forces nearly two weeks ago, India has been engaged in an intense diplomatic effort to isolate Pakistan, including lobbying at the United Nations in New York.

A message to Pakistan?

India's public admission of the cross-border operation is thought to be the first open acknowledgement of action in at least a decade.

Although Pakistan officially denies the raid, comments from one cabinet minister do appear to acknowledge it did occur.

Defence Minister Khwaja Asif last night warned that "if they ever violate the line of control again … God-willing Pakistani forces will give them a tough response".

One senior government official indicated to the ABC that the operation was calculated to send a message to Pakistan, that it would not tolerate terrorist incursions.

But the official also said the raid showed restraint and described it as a counter-terror operation, not one targeting Pakistan's military.

Escalation fears build in region

The strike has raised the possibility of military escalation between the neighbours that could wreck a 2003 Kashmir ceasefire.

"This strike can escalate firing at the border, for which India is well prepared," said retired Major General SR Sinho, who added that India had "run out of patience" with Pakistan.

Pakistan has vowed to respond, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif calling a cabinet meeting for Friday.

Balancing his own domestic calls for retaliation with the need for restraint is expected to pose a difficult test for Prime Minister Sharif, in part because Pakistan's powerful military chief is due to retire and a replacement is yet to be announced.