Defence Ministers of India and Pakistan in a war of words

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN - Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, February 13: A day after Indian Defence Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman threatened to make Pakistan pay for the attack on an army camp in Kashmir, her Pakistani counterpart Khurram Dastgir Khan said any Indian aggression or misadventure will be "met with an equal and proportionate response".

Responding to the warning from Ms Sitharaman, Khan said India should refrain from the "knee-jerk reaction of blaming Pakistan without substantiation". He also said India should answer for what he described as "state-sponsored espionage against Pakistan".

"Pakistan will pay India in its own coin in case of any Indian misadventure. Any Indian aggression, strategic miscalculation, or misadventure regardless of its scale, mode, or location will not go unpunished and shall be met with an equal and proportionate response," Khan said in a statement.

"We will defend robustly every inch of Pakistan’s soil. Instead of the knee-jerk reaction of blaming Pakistan without substantiation, India must answer for state-sponsored espionage against Pakistan. Living evidence in person of Kulbushan (Jadhav) is in front of the world," he added.

After visiting an army camp at Sunjuwan where six soldiers and a civilian were killed in a terror attack on Sunday, Sitharaman accused Pakistan of helping Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants launch the attack. She also warned that Pakistan "will have to pay for this misadventure".

Sitharaman said all the evidence, including a dossier on the attackers, will be shared with Pakistan despite Islamabad not acting on such dossiers in the past. "Terrorists belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, sponsored by Azhar Masood residing in Pakistan and deriving support from there," she said, citing intelligence reports that said the attackers were being controlled by handlers from across the border.

India has long asked for JeM chief Azhar to be designated an international terrorist by the United Nations, a move that has been blocked by Pakistan’s ally China.

But her Pakistani counterpart said in his statement that India had "failed to deliver justice to the 42 Pakistanis murdered in the Samjhauta Express" bombing in 2007.

"India is destabilising regional peace in word and deed, through irresponsible statements on nuclear deterrent and through its bloody, five-fold escalation in 2017 of attacks on unarmed civilians on the Line of Control and working boundary," he added.

Pakistan’s armed forces are "alive to all possibilities, and prepared fully to defend our country’s territorial integrity", Khan said.

"An aggressive Pak-centric doctrine and arrayed forces under a belligerent regime leading to possible strategic miscalculation by India will seriously impact the strategic stability in South Asia," he added.

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