2019 India–pakistan Standoff

 India  Pakistan The 2019 India–Pakistan standoff is an ongoing military conflict in the disputed Kashmir region and its neighboring provinces. The standoff had its roots in an attack that happened on 14 February 2019, when 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force members were killed in a suicide bombing perpetrated by a militant from Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. The government of Pakistan condemned the attack and denied any involvement.

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2019 India–Pakistan standoff
Part of the Indo-Pakistani conflicts and the Kashmir conflict

Map of the Kashmir region
Date14 February 2019 – present
(2 weeks and 3 days)
Location
Status Ongoing
Belligerents

 India

JeM (Indian claim)

 Pakistan

Casualties and losses
40–46 CRPF killed[1][2] and 70 wounded[3]
5–10 soldiers wounded[4][5]
1 pilot captured (released)[6]
1 MiG-21 shot down (Indian claim)[7][8]
2 fighter jets shot down (Pakistani claim)[9][10][11]
Many killed (Indian claim)[12]
None killed (Pakistani claim)[13][14]
2 soldiers killed[15]
1 F-16 and 1 UAV shot down (Indian claim)[16][17]
10–12 Pakistani and 4 Indian civilians killed[18][19][20]

The 2019 India–Pakistan standoff is an ongoing military conflict in the disputed Kashmir region and its neighboring provinces. The standoff had its roots in an attack that happened on 14 February 2019, when 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force members were killed in a suicide bombing perpetrated by a militant from Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. The government of Pakistan condemned the attack and denied any involvement.[21]

In response, the Indian Air Force conducted airstrikes on 26 February over the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir, the first such strikes since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The Indian government stated that it had targeted a terrorist training camp and claimed that the strikes had killed several militants.[12][22] The claims were disputed by the local residents of the targeted area[23] and by the Pakistani military, which stated that there were no casualties or damage to infrastructure.[24]

On 26 and 27 February, India and Pakistan exchanged fire across the LOC. Ten Indian soldiers were injured in the skirmishes.[5] Four Pakistani civilians were killed in the shelling.[25]

On 27 February, Pakistan conducted airstrikes in Indian-administered Kashmir which did not cause any casualties or damage.[26] Pakistan claimed that two Indian jets were shot down over Pakistani airspace and two pilots captured. India said that only one MiG-21 was lost and demanded the release of the pilot. India claimed to have shot down a Pakistani F-16, but Pakistan denied that. Pakistan later clarified that only one pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, was captured, and was subsequently released on 1 March.[6]

Background

India and Pakistan have long been at odds with the other, having engaged in several wars, conflicts, and various military standoffs. The roots of continued tension are complex, but have centered mainly around the state of Kashmir. After the 1947 Partition of India, the newly formed Pakistan and India squabbled over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which turned into the full-scale Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948. Partially at issue was the fact that the 1947 partition had not determined the final status of the princely state. The issue has proved intractable, leading to further war in 1965, as well as in 1971. Both nations are armed with nuclear weapons after developing them in the 1990's, which may have served to limit the severity of the 1999 Kargil War.[27]

Military events

Pulwama attack

The 2019 Indo-Pakistan military standoff is in reaction to[28] a terror attack in mid-February 2019, when a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber at Lethpora (near Awantipora) in the Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Over 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel and the perpetrator were killed in the attack, which Jaish-e-Mohammed took responsibility for. The attacker was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, a local from Jammu and Kashmir, and a member of Jaish-e-Mohammed.[29] This was the deadliest attack on Indian forces in Kashmir since 1989.[30]

Balakot airstrike

On 26 February 2019, Indian air force conducted airstrikes at Balakot, deep within Pakistan. The strikes were subsequently claimed to be "non-military" and "preemptive'' in nature; targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammed facility within Pakistan. India said the airstrike was in retaliation to the Pulwama attack and that "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis" were eliminated who were preparing for launching another suicide attack targeting Indian assets.[31]

Indian media claimed to have confirmed from official sources that twelve Mirage 2000 jets were involved in the operation and that they struck multiple militant camps in Balakot, Chakothi and Muzaffarabad operated by Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen[32] killing about 350 militants. The exact figures varied across media-houses.[33]

Pakistani officials conceded the intrusion of Indian aircraft into its airspace but rejected the claimed results. It asserted that the Indian fleet was intercepted and that the payloads were dropped in unpopulated areas and resulted in no casualties or infrastructural damage.[24] Pervez Khattak, Pakistani Defence Minister, stated that the Pakistani Air Force did not retaliate at that time because "they could not gauge the extent of the damage".[34]

This airstrike was the first time since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that aerial attacks had crossed the Line of Control.[35]

Villagers from the area claimed that four bombs struck a nearby forest and a field resulting in damage to a building and injuring a local man around 3:00 AM.[36][37] A team from Al Jazeera visited the site two days after the strikes and noted "splintered pine trees and rocks" which were strewn across the four blast craters. The local hospital officials and residents asserted that they did not come across any casualty or wounded people. The reporters located the facility[33], a school run by Jaish-e-Mohammed, at around a kilometre to the east of one of the bomb craters, atop a steep ridge but were unable to access it.[38] Reporters from Reuters were denied access to the madrassa by the military but they noted the structure (and it's vicinity) to be intact from the back.[37]

Some diplomats and analysts have raised doubts about the efficacy of the strike, claiming that the terrorist groups along the border would have vacated the area, after the Indian Prime Minister vowed to retaliate against the Pulwama attack.[39] The local people varied as to the purpose of the facility.[38] Whilst some claimed its being an active Jaish training camp, others asserted it to have been a mere school for the local kids and that such militant camps had used to exist far earlier.[37][38] Satellite-data analysis by Nathan Ruser, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute noted an absence of any apparent evidence to verify Indian claims.[33][40][41]

Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor of Indian Air Force said on 28 February 2019 that though it was “premature” to provide details about the casualties, they had “fairly credible evidence” of the damage inflicted on the camp by the air strikes.[37]

Border skirmishes

Heavy skirmishes between Pakistani and Indian forces occurred along the Line of Control on 26 February, with small arms and mortar fire being exchanged.[42] Pakistani officials reported that at least four civilians were killed, and eleven were wounded.[43][44] A 55-year-old woman and her two children (aged 20 and 8 years old) were killed in the Nakyal sector. In the Khuiratta sector, a 40-year-old woman was killed.[43]

Throughout 27 February, heavy exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani forces continued along the Line of Control.[45] 10 Indian soldiers were injured and two residential houses damaged in the Indian side.[5]

Airstrikes and aircraft shot down

On 27 February, Pakistani military officials announced that Pakistan had carried out an airstrike against multiple targets in Jammu and Kashmir. A military spokesman claimed that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had hit six locations and the targets were non-military to avoid "human loss and collateral damage."[46][47] The spokesman further claimed that Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian aircraft after they encroached on Pakistan's airspace. Adding that one of the jets fell in Pakistan administered Kashmir, while the other fell in Indian administered Kashmir.[48][49] It was also claimed that Pakistan Army had captured two Indian pilots, but later the statement was revised to only one pilot being in custody[46]-- Abhinandan Varthaman, a Wing Commander.[8][50] India initially contradicted Pakistan's claim of capturing a pilot;[51] subsequently the Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed[16] that an Indian pilot was missing in action after a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane was lost while engaging with Pakistani jets after they violated Indian airspace.[52]

The Indian military claimed that the Pakistan Air Force had dropped bombs which caused no damage or casualties.[26] The affected areas identified by the Indian military were Nadian, Laam Jhangar, Kerri in Rajouri District and Hamirpur area of Bhimber Galli in Poonch. According to the Indian military, three Pakistan Air Force jets had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) from Nowshera, Jammu and Kashmir. They were however pushed back by six Indian airforce jets.[53][54][55] Raveesh Kumar from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs stated that a Pakistani aircraft was shot down by the Indian Air Force after it violated India's airspace.[16][35] ANI reported that an F-16 was shot down.[56] On 28 February, a picture of an aircraft wreckage in Pakistan administered Kashmir was claimed by IAF sources as the wreckage of the PAF F-16 shot down by the IAF MiG-21.[57] Indian Air Force later presented wreckage of AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile to show involvement of F-16s in the air conflict and said that F-16s are the only aircraft in Pakistan's inventory that could fire this missile.[58]

Indian military claims were rejected by Pakistan's ISPR branch,[35] who claimed that no Pakistan Air Force jet was harmed in the attack and that F-16s were not used in the operation.[59] Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the airstrikes only aimed to "send a message" and Pakistan's plan was to cause "no casualties" on the Indian side.[60] India rejected this, saying it "successfully foiled" Pakistan's attempt to "target military installations".[61] Imran Khan also appealed for negotiations to avoid war.[60]

The retaliatory air strikes coupled with the capture of the Indian pilot led to a heightened state of military alert. Tanks were deployed to the border in the Pakistani side whilst several Kashmiri residents reportedly fled their homes and painted their homes with red-cross signs to avert air-strikes.[62]

Pakistan released the captured pilot on 1 March, describing the move as a gesture of peace[6][63][64] whilst the Indian Air Force asserted the pilot's release as a mandatory obligation under the Geneva Conventions rather than a show of goodwill.[65] The Indian media had also criticized Pakistan's release of his photographs and interrogation videos to be against the protocols of the convention.[66][67] A video published by the state just prior to his release that show him praising Pakistani Army and criticizing Indian media was criticized for being heavily edited.[68][69]

Other incidents

Closure of Pakistani airspace

On 27 February, Pakistan cancelled all commercial flights and closed its airspace until the midnight of 28 February.[70][71] A NOTAM was issued by the Civil Aviation Authority to close the airspace.[72] Airlines were forced to reroute or cancel their flights with routes planned over Pakistan, leaving passengers stranded.[73] On 01 March at 1140 UTC the NOTAM closing the airspace was extended until 0800 UTC on 04 March with 23 exceptions listed.[74]

Suspension of Samjhauta Express

On 28 February, Samjhauta Express, a train that runs twice weekly between India and Pakistan, was suspended by the government of Pakistan.[75] It was scheduled to depart from Lahore with 16 passengers who are now[needs update] stuck at Lahore.[76]

International reaction

A number of nations, including Australia,[77] Canada,[78] China,[79] Indonesia,[80] Malaysia,[81] Sri Lanka,[82] the United Arab Emirates,[83] and the United States,[84] expressed their concern and/or called for restraint. Iran[85] and Turkey[86] have each offered to mediate the crisis.

References

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