Tensions between India and Pakistan spiralled Tuesday, with New Delhi crying foul over the treatment of the family of death row convict Kulbhushan Jadhav and Islamabad blaming its neighbour for “unprovoked” firing that killed three of its soldiers.
Commandos of the Indian Army crossed the Line of Control (LoC) on Monday night in the Poonch sector and killed three Pakistani soldiers in a “tactical retaliatory strike”, government sources said.
The attack was carried out two days after four Indian Army personnel, including a Major, were allegedly killed by Pakistan in an ambush in Kashmir’s Keri-Rajouri sector, and a day before the Indian foreign ministry hit out at Pakistan for the treatment meted out in Islamabad on Monday to the wife and mother of death-row convict Kulbhushan Jadhav.
The sources said the military action could not be termed a “surgical strike” — like the one conducted last September, when Indian army commandos went across the LoC to target alleged terror launch pads operated by Pakistan. Monday’s raid, conducted 250m across the LoC by five to seven soldiers of an infantry battalion’s Ghatak commandos, was planned at the local level.
“The raid was to send a message that the Indian Army will retaliate swiftly and strongly to rogue actions,” a source said.
The Indian Army declined to comment, but the Pakistan Army on Tuesday confirmed the death of three soldiers at Rukh Chakri sector in Rawlakot, describing it as “unprovoked heavy cross-border shelling by Indian forces”. The Pakistan foreign office, however, “categorically rejected” reports that Indian forces had crossed the LoC to attack Pakistani troops, calling them a “figment of the imagination”.
This exchange of attacks took place in the backdrop of a major diplomatic row between the two countries over former Indian Navy officer Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death by Pakistan for alleged espionage.
Jadhav was allowed on Monday to meet his mother Avanti and wife Chentankul through a glass partition in Islamabad – which Pakistan said was evidence of its humanitarianism and generosity. But India accused Pakistan of harassing Jadhav’s family, saying their meeting was held in an “atmosphere of coercion”.
The external affairs ministry alleged that Jadhav’s conversation during the meeting was “tutored and designed to perpetuate the false narrative of his alleged activities in Pakistan.”
In a strongly worded statement, India’s ministry of external affairs said: “The manner in which the meeting was conducted and its aftermath was clearly an attempt to bolster a false and unsubstantiated narrative of Shri Jadhav’s alleged activities. You would all agree that this exercise lacked any credibility.”
The statement also pointed out that Jadhav’s mother was not allowed to speak to him in her mother tongue and that his wife’s mangalsutra was removed citing security concerns.
Avanti and Chetankul Jadhav met external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and foreign secretary S Jaishankar on Tuesday but the details of their interaction were not made public.
Islamabad had said on Monday that Jadhav, who has been convicted by Pakistan for alleged espionage — a charge that India denies – had been allowed to meet his family members on humanitarian grounds on the birth anniversary of the nation’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Pakistan says its security forces arrested Jadhav, a spy who used the alias Hussein Mubarak Patel, from Balochistan on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran. India maintains that Jadhav is innocent and that he was kidnapped from Iran, where he had business interests after retiring from the Indian Navy.
The International Court of Justice has halted Jadhav’s execution on India’s appeal pending a final verdict by it.
With inputs from Imtiaz Ahmad