Punitive fire assaults: Is India inching towards isolating Pakistan?

Topics India-Pakistan

The Indian Air Force showcasing its firepower during exercise Iron Fist. According to US officials, India could take punitive actions against Pakistan in the event of any terrorist attack or violence along the LoC. File photo
India may seek to punish Pakistan for its continuing support for terrorist organisations which target the former, top US intelligence officials have said.

Speaking at a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, US Defence Intelligence Agency head Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, according to reports, said: “India has sought and continues to move to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and is considering punitive options to raise the cost to Islamabad for its alleged support to cross-border terrorism.” (Read more)

At the same hearing, Trump's Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said, "Islamabad's failure to curb support to anti-India militants and New Delhi's growing intolerance of this policy, coupled with a perceived lack of progress in Pakistan's investigations into the January 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for a deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016." (Read more)

These statements came on the heels of "punitive fire assaults" reportedly launched by the Indian Army on Pakistani positions across the LoC. (Read more)  

Pakistan-based terrorist groups conducting attacks on India soil were not the only potential flashpoints between New Delhi and Islamabad. according to Coats. The ongoing and heightened tensions at the Line of Control (LoC) also have the potential to spiral out of control, he added. "Increasing numbers of firefights along the Line of Control, including the use of artillery and mortars, might exacerbate the risk of unintended escalation between these nuclear-armed neighbours," Coats warned.

Both Coats and Stewart did not appear to be too optimistic about 2017. "Continued threat of high level terror attacks in India, violence in Kashmir and bilateral diplomatic recriminations will further strain India-Pakistan ties in 2017," Stewart said. For his part, Coats had this to say: "They might deteriorate further in 2017, especially in the event of another high-profile terrorist attack in India that New Delhi attributes to originating in or receiving assistance from Pakistan."

Their statements reflect the current mood between the two nuclear powers. Tensions escalated on Wednesday with Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief Suhail Aman activating all forward bases in response to purported Indian "threats" and fighter jets flying over the Siachen glacier violating the Indian airspace, a claim New Delhi has dismissed. (Read more)

The fresh Pakistani provocation came a day after the Indian Army said it had "proactively" dominated the LoC with "punitive fire assaults" against Pakistani military posts and terrorist launch pads.

According to media reports in Islamabad, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, along with senior PAF officers, visited the Qadri Airbase in Skardu – part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir – where war exercises by fighter jet squadrons are being held at present.

In an apparent response to India's aggressive LoC posture and recent reports of Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief B S Dhanoa's missive to the force to be "prepared" for action at a short notice, Aman told reporters at the Skardu base that Pakistan would give a "befitting response to any misadventure by the enemy".

"Pakistan has and must have zero concern over the statements of the enemy. Our response to any aggression by the enemy will be such that their future generations will also remember it," he said according to a Radio Pakistan report.

The reports said that he also ordered the "operation activation" of forward posts on the nearly 780-km LoC.

Aman's visit to the Skardu base coincided with other reports in the Pakistani media that the PAF on Wednesday flew fighter jets near the Siachen Glacier — the world's highest battleground in the northern part of Kashmir where the LoC ends. Skardu is around 140 km from Siachen.

Citing unnamed sources, Pakistan's Samaa TV said Pakistani fighter jets "made flights near Siachen Glacier on Wednesday morning".

However, the IAF has denied any violation of India's airspace. "There is no reported airspace violation," said an IAF official, who did not want to be identified.

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