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Pakistan warns India planning ‘surgical strike’ against it

December 18, 2020 GMT

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s foreign minister on Friday accused neighboring India of planning a “surgical strike” against his Islamic nation, the latest in a war of words between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke during a televised news conference in the United Arab Emirates where he is currently on a two-day visit for talks with senior UAE government officials.

He did not offer evidence to support his claim but cited “credible intelligence” about the alleged plot. He added that Pakistan was fully prepared to respond to any such attack from India, which he said could endanger peace in the region.

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There was no immediate comment from New Delhi. Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations and often trade accusations. They have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed by both in its entirety.

Qureshi said an Indian strike could disrupt the ongoing Afghan peace process, which is being facilitated by Pakistan. The Taliban, over whom Pakistan yields considerable influence, and Afghanistan’s government representatives have been holding negotiations since September in Qatar to try and hammer out a peace deal that would end the war.

A Taliban team arrived in Islamabad this week for talks with Pakistani government leaders amid growing calls for a reduction in violence in neighboring Afghanistan. The Taliban delegation met with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday. According to a government statement, Khan expressed his concern during the meeting over the high level of violence in Afghanistan and called on all sides to reduce violence levels and work toward a cease-fire.

Echoing Qureshi’s concerns, Khan’s adviser on national security, Moeed Yusuf, later Friday tweeted that the “world must prevent India from destabilizing the region in its attempt to divert attention from its domestic trouble.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said Pakistan learned “from credible sources that India is planning to undertake a military misadventure” in Kashmir and pledged that the Pakistani military was “fully prepared to defeat Indian designs.” Islamabad has informed the international community about the intelligence, Chaudri said.

Also Friday, Pakistan’s military said Indian troops targeted a vehicle with two U.N. observers who escaped unharmed. A military statement said the attack was deliberate as U.N. vehicles are clearly marked and “recognizable even from long distances.”

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq only confirmed that the vehicle, carrying personnel from the observers’ mission and their driver was “impacted by an unidentified object while conducting routine monitoring activities.” No one was harmed and the incident is being investigated, Haq said.

A top Indian army officer, speaking on condition of anonymity under regulations, denied the Pakistani accusation. Indian army spokesman Lt. Col. Devender Anand in turn accused Pakistani soldiers of violating the cease-fire in two incidents on Friday along the Line of Control separating the Pakistani-administered and the India-run sectors of Kashmir.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Kashmir.

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Associated Press writers Aijaz Hussain Sri Nagar, India, and Edith M Lederer contributed to this report.