NEW DELHI, March 17 (INP): Tensions between the two nuclear-armed Asian powers escalated last month, after an incursion into Pakistani territory in Kashmir by Indian Air Force warplanes to strike at Jihadist militants led to skirmishes in the air and small arms and artillery fire along the shaky Line of Control border.
Major combat units of the Indian Navy including the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier-led battle group, nuclear submarines “and scores of other ships, submarines and aircraft” were quickly shifted from exercises to operational deployment as tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad escalated, India’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement Sunday.
“A clear and resolute message regarding the operational posture of the Indian Navy to prevent, deter and defeat any misadventure by Pakistan in the maritime domain was also issued during the tri-services press conference” on February 28, the statement added.
The Defence Ministry did not clarify which “nuclear submarines” were deployed, although the Indian Navy presently has two kinds of nuclear-powered subs at its disposal, including a single Chakra (Akula II) class attack submarine leased from Russia, and the INS Arihant, an Indian-made ballistic missile submarine capable of firing up to 12 submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles. The Navy also has some 14 diesel-electric subs.
Indian warships were redeployed out of the Theatre Level Operation Readiness Exercise (TROPEX 19), an annual inter-service series of drills involving the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Army, as tensions with Pakistan escalated after the February 14 terrorist attack on an Indian military convoy in Kashmir.
Earlier Sunday, sources reportedly said that India and Pakistan had threaten to lob nuclear missiles at each other during the crisis, and that only US officials’ intervention helped to defuse what may have well turned into a much deadlier conflict.
In early March, the Pakistani Navy released video of what it alleged was an Indian submarine attempting to enter Pakistani waters as tensions between the two countries flared.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated in mid-February, after a Pakistan-based terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda carried out a deadly car bombing attack against Indian security forces in Kashmir, killing at least 40 personnel.
The Indian military responded by conducting airstrikes against a suspected terrorist training camp on the Pakistani side of the border on Tuesday, February 26. A day later, the Pakistani Air Force scrambled fighters to counter a second Indian incursion into Pakistani airspace, leading to a dogfight and the loss of at least one Indian MiG-21 and one Pakistani F-16.
Tensions continue to smolder, with regular reports of airspace violations, military drills held in the sensitive border area, and back and forth allegations of ceasefire violations amid small arms and artillery fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir.