Pakistan’s BAT team, notorious for beheading Indian soldiers, tried to push intruders; India says it won’t send troops to Afghanistan.
Even as India discussed security cooperation in Afghanistan at the first top-ranking cabinet-level meeting with the Trump administration, a major Pakistan-backed strike that could have had disastrous consequences was thwarted along the disputed line of control (LoC).
The attack — carried out by the Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) that was involved in a series of brutal beheadings of Indian soldiers — took place in Kupwara minutes after defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman concluded talks with US defence secretary James Mattis in the national capital.
While India categorically ruled out the deployment of its troops in Afghanistan, Sitharaman called for action against terror havens in Pakistan and asked Mattis to take up the issue during his next visit to Islamabad.
“There shall be no boots on the ground in Afghanistan…(developmental) engagements will continue,” Sitharaman said after her meeting with Mattis in South Block.
Around 1 pm when Sitharaman and Mattis entered Room 129D in South Block for the joint press conference, an Indian Army post in Keran sector came under heavy attack from seven-eight Pakistani intruders who crossed over the LoC.
The action was supported by nearby Pakistani army posts that from where they fired from small arms and lobbed mortars at Indian positions, according to Indian Army officials. The attack, however, was thwarted without any casualties on the Indian side and ended with the intruders retreating. “The action was aimed to cause damage to our post but was effectively thwarted and we did not suffer any casualty,” an Army source said.
Similar strikes have had disastrous consequences in the past. At least three beheadings have taken place along the LoC since surgical strikes against terror launch pads were carried out by Indian special forces last September. Ahead of the first anniversary of the strikes Friday, the Army is on high alert on the border for enemy action.
Sitharaman, meanwhile, made it clear that while there would be no Indian boots on the ground, developmental assistance to Afghanistan will be expanded in areas like medical care, education and training.
She also took on Pakistan for supporting cross-border terror. “The situation in our neighbourhood and the growing menace of cross-border terrorism were discussed in depth. We both recognise the importance of holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism,” she said.
On the bilateral front, India and the US have decided to increase joint exercises. While the US is already India’s largest training partner, the two sides agreed to explore additional, specialised exercises. Both sides are interested in special forces operations as well as joint response to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief situations.
On joint development and cooperation in manufacturing defence equipment, the two sides shared intent to revitalise the DTTI (Defence Technology and Trade Initiative) that has hit a dead end with a previously identified list of projects not progressing as expected.
Sitharaman called the US the “leading supplier of state-of-the-art defence equipment to India” while Mattis said that Washington is looking forward to “sharing some of our most advanced defence technologies through the DTTI”.
While discussions were held on specific projects, details were not made public. Mattis, who also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the evening, is believed to have discussed the possible shifting of the F-16 fighter jet production line to India as well as cooperation on aircraft carrier design and technology.