Millennium Post

'All options' with India in case of another attack, say Officials

New Delhi: India will have "all options" available in case there is another cross-border terror attack, government sources asserted on Tuesday while maintaining that New Delhi's counter-terror strikes in Balakot were intended to demonstrate the "capacity and will" to act against terror network in Pakistan.

They said the action against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot was "over" and emphasised that India's aim is to force Pakistan to take "demonstrable" action against terror groups operating from their soil.

The highly-placed sources, however, refused to give number of human casualties in the air strikes by IAF jets last week even though there has been a raging debate on the issue.

Briefing reporters last week on the Balakot strike, the External Affairs Ministry had said "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated", while the government sources said 350 terrorists were killed. Later, BJP president Amit Shah put the toll at 250.

Amidst media reports suggesting minimal damage during these air strikes, opposition parties have been clamouring for clarity.

Sources said India has shared with the US the evidence of use of F16 fighter jet by Pakistan during retaliatory aerial combat a day after the Balakot strike and was confident that the US is investigating the matter.

"Our efforts in the coming days will be to see that there is demonstrable action on the part of Pakistan to deal with terror infrastructure there. If this is a 'naya' Pakistan with a 'naya soch' (new thought process), we expect to see 'naya' action on the ground. Not simply words", a top government source said, referring to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's much publicised 'Naya Pakistan' slogan.

The source said the Pakistani government's objective, at the moment, is simply to pretend to the international community that it is taking steps. "We will not allow them to do this. Our effort and focus is to reach out to all members of the UN Security Council to explain to Pakistan's ploy", the source added.

Sources also observed that Pakistan has gone to all countries seeking mediation to defuse the standoff with India but no country has heeded to their request.

A number of world leaders have spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the assessment is that there is "solid support and understanding" of India's position, sources said, adding sufficient pressure was put on Islamabad to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman immediately. "No country has offered any mediation in the matter. We have made it clear that this is not an India-Pakistan issue. This is an issue of terrorism," said a source.

Sources also dubbed as a "total lie" the Pakistan's claim that it has shot down an Indian Sukhoi 30 fighter jet during the aerial dogfight on February 27.

They said India believes Islamabad's strategy is to keep its public in a heightened state of fear so that they do not ask awkward questions.

On reports in Pakistan about minimal impact of India's strike on JeM camp in Balakot, sources said if there is no damage then why Pakistani media is not being taken to the site of the operation.

Referring to the interviews given by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to CNN and the BBC, sources said it has emerged from these interactions that there are people in Pakistani government who not only know where UN-proscribed JeM chief Masood Azhar is, but are also in touch with him.

In one of the interviews, the journalist described Azhar as the chief of the JeM and there was no denial to this by the Pakistan foreign minister which is significant from the point of view of efforts to list him as global terrorists by the UN, sources added.

Earlier, Islamabad had suggested that Azhar is no longer the chief of JeM and is a religious teacher.

If Azhar gets banned by the UN, Pakistan will get into a difficult situation as he has been residing there as per the Pakistan foreign minister's admission. Sources had said on Monday the Indian Air Force has kept all its bases in Western sector on maximum alert after the Balakot strike on February 26.

India's air strike, which the government had called a "non-military" action, followed a terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir on February 14, in which 40 personnel were killed. JeM had taken the responsibility for the attack.

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