The India-Pakistan relations remain tensed after India’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control Wednesday night.
India admitted that one of its soldiers is in Pakistan’s custody. The army says that 22-year-old soldier Chandu Babulal Chauhan strayed into Pakistani territory “inadvertently” on Thursday and was captured. According to the army Chauhan, a soldier of the Rashtriya Rifles, did not take part in the surgical strikes. The army statement said he had “inadvertently crossed the Line of Control from the army post where he was on duty.” “Such inadvertent crossing by the army and civilians are not unusual on either side. They are returned through existing mechanisms,” said the statement.
The army’s head of military operations, General Ranbir Singh, spoke to his Pakistani counterpart last night and demanded that the soldier be sent back.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that all attempts are being made to free 22-year-old soldier Chandu Babulal Chauhan from Pakistani captivity.
As the revelation ratcheted up tension between the neighbours, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that eight Indian soldiers had been killed in the strikes and one was caught alive. The army denied the deaths, asserting that the special op forces who crossed the Line of Control for the strikes returned with “not one scratch”. Army officials say images played out on Pakistan TV channels claiming to show Indian casualties are doctored or morphed clips and “absolutely fake.”
Pakistan had denied the surgical strikes took place, acknowledging only that there was cross-border firing on Wednesday night in at least four areas along the Line of Control in which two of its soldiers were killed and nine injured. Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif is quoted in Pakistan media as saying that India should offer evidence of its surgical strikes.
Indian sources say the strikes were filmed, in part by drones, and a decision on releasing evidence shall be a tactical one based on how Pakistan responds in the next few days.
Meanwhile India and Pakistan on Friday traded heavy gunfire along the International Border in Akhnoor sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan’s cabinet met on Friday to review the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) in the wake of ‘surgical strikes’ by the Indian Army. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired the meeting.
Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi is set to meet UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday to inform him about escalating tension with India over the cross-border shelling that killed two Pakistani soldiers.
Over 20,000 residents of border villages in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts on Friday migrated to safer places as the authorities declared areas close to the international border “out of bounds for all civilian movement”.
State government officials said villagers living close to the borders in these districts of the Jammu region were migrating from their homes to safer places away from the range of Pakistani shelling since Thursday night.
Educational institutions in these areas also remained closed on Friday as a precautionary measure.
Critical care ambulances, disaster rescue and relief teams of the Jammu and Kashmir government have also been placed on high alert and deployed in the border areas in the Jammu region.
Authorities said all civilian movement close to the border were disallowed till further orders.
Hospitals in areas close to the border and other towns and cities of Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts were also put on high alert and doctors were advised to remain on duty.
Punjab has started the process of evacuating nearly 1,000 villages in the six border districts of the state. The affected villages are within 10 km of the India-Pakistan border in the districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Fazilka and Ferozepur.
The authorities are making alternative arrangements for about 15 lakh people likely to be displaced in the six districts.
“We were informed about the tactical strike on Thursday morning after which we started the evacuation process,” Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said. “The Union home secretary has informed us of the possibility of retaliation. We have activated the state disaster management committee.”
Times of India reported that by afternoon, there was already a sense of urgency in the villages. ‘As the granthi of Gurdwara Samadha Bhagat Jallan Das Ji told villagers to vacate their homes in Naushehra and Dhalla villages on the public address system, there was near panic as residents hurriedly bundled up their belongings and rushed to catch a bus. Most people were leaving for the homes of their relatives away from the border or were planning to take shelter in gurdwaras and temples in Amritsar and Tarn Taran.’
A state of high alert was issued across Uttar Pradesh also, following the surgical strike across the Line of Control (LoC). Security was heightened in all districts, fearing retaliation from Pakistan.
The Seema Shashastra Bal (SSB) was also asked to step up vigil along the Indo-Nepal border.
Special focus was on security of historical monuments, tourist destinations, public places like railway and bus stations, malls, shopping complexes and film theatres. Additional police force was deployed in the peripheral parameters of cantonments in Lucknow, Agra, Kanpur and Meerut, and military installations and airports were put under close watch.
Special checking operations were initiated to screen vehicles on border and other sensitive areas like Maharajganj, Bahraich, Gonda and Gorakhpur.
Meanwhile, normal life continued to remain affected in Kashmir for the 84th consecutive day today due to the separatists call for shut down.