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NEW DELHI/ ISLAMABAD: Directly accusing Pakistan of the terror attack on the Sunjuwan army camp in Jammu that left five soldiers and a civilian dead, New Delhi has said Islamabad will have to pay for the “misadventure” as well as for ceasefire violations along the Line of Control to help terrorist infiltration.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, at a briefing in Jammu, said, “Intelligence inputs show the terrorists (who attacked the camp) were controlled by their handlers from across the border… there are indications they also had some local support. Pakistan will have to pay for this misadventure.”
The remarks, coming a day after Islamabad characteristically rejected its involvement, were a reiteration of India’s right to respond to the attack that the Army said was carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohammed. Though she did not name them, Sitharaman’s reference to “handlers” was a hint in the direction of ISI and Pakistan army. She held extensive deliberations with the Army brass and J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti. On Sunday, while blaming India for “unfounded allegations”, the Pakistan foreign office said India should “refrain from any misadventure” across the LoC and the working boundary, and called for a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the J&K dispute.
Claiming that Indian statements were an attempt to divert attention from “atrocities” in J&K, Pakistan said it rejects all allegations that are part of an Indian smear campaign. Also making it clear that the Centre is not willing to concede ground to its partner PDP’s “soft separatism”, Sitharaman also expressed full support for Major Aditya Kumar, who was leading the vehicle convoy that was attacked by a stone-pelting mob in Shopian in south Kashmir last month. “The government and MoD will stand by the Army, which is working under severe duress in J&K. We will not let our soldiers down,” she said.
Sitharaman was pointedly categorical that Jaish chief Masood Azhar, who roams around freely in Pakistan and “derives support” from authorities there, had “sponsored” the dastardly attack. While three heavily-armed terrorists dressed in “battle fatigues” were gunned down during the suicide attack on residential quarters in the Sunjuwan camp, in which 10 people including six women and children were also injured, a fourth had possibly acted as their “guide” and slipped away.
She responded to a question on Mehbooba’s call for dialogue with Pakistan to end the violence, saying she had met the CM who had also expressed shock at the attack on family members of soldiers including women and children. The defence, home and external affairs ministries are compiling “evidences” of Pakistan’s complicity in Sunjuwan and other attacks, which are also being scrutinised by the NIA, which will be handed to Islamabad despite it “not taking any action” on dossiers given earlier.
“Giving the evidences to Pak will be a continuous process. It will have to be proved over and over again that they are responsible. Pakistan is expanding the arch of terror to areas south of Pir Panjal and resorting to ceasefire violations to assist infiltration,” said Sitharaman. She did not respond to questions on whether India would again go in for “surgical strikes” — as was done in September 2016 after 19 soldiers were killed in an attack on the Army camp in Uri — or some other cross-border operation. But she did indicate India would respond with punitive action at a time and place of its choosing.