Tensions escalate as Indian airstrike hits inside Pakistan

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor 
Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open

The Indian Air Force early on Tuesday morning carried out a pre-emptive strike on the biggest Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot, which is located in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa area.

Before the airstrike, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday spoke to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistani minister of foreign affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and "strongly condemned" the attack in Pulwama on February 14.

Though there is no official confirmation, sources indicated that Yosuf Azhar was killed in the strike along with 350 other terrorists.

Indian media reports said the country's military was put on high alert to meet any response by Pakistan's air force.

The airstrike followed a suicide bombing in India's section of the disputed territory of Kashmir on February 14 that killed more than 40 Indian soldiers.

The air strikes, which India says killed many militants, will escalate military tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. The bomber, who made a video before the attack, was a resident of Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir.

"I vow that I will not let the country bow down", he said.

Hours after India undertook a non-military preemptive strike in Balakot, foreign nations have urged India and Pakistan to maintain good relations for peace in South Asia.

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Meanwhile, China a close ally of Pakistan, called for restraint from both Islamabad and New Delhi to prevent further escalation.

Ghafoor claimed the missiles came down in an "open area" and caused no material damage or casualties.

General Ghafoor added that one Indian pilot had been arrested by Pakistani forces.

Khan, as per a statement issued after the meeting, "directed that elements of national power, including the armed forces and the people of Pakistan, remain prepared for all eventualities" and summoned a special meeting of the National Command Authority on Wednesday.

The military action follows a diplomatic offensive in which India says it is seeking to isolate Pakistan for its alleged support to militant groups.

"No casualties or damage", he wrote. Terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is based in Bahawalpur in Pakistani Punjab, had immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

"We remain in contact with both countries and what we believe is essential is that all exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions", European Union spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters. The Himalayan region has been divided between India and Pakistan for more than 70 years.

The strike in Balakot is significant as the location is beyond Pakistan Administered Kashmir, indicating it was not merely an LoC violation but a punitive action inside Pakistani territory. The militant groups are fighting for either Kashmir's independence or its merger with Pakistan.

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