Pakistan’s Defence Minister has warned it will ‘eliminate India’ with nuclear weapons if the country ‘dares to impose war’.
His comments came as Pakistan blamed ‘cross-border fire’ from India for the death of two of its soldiers in the disputed region of Kashmir.
Fears are growing that the two old enemies may go to war again.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif reportedly told Pakistani TV channel SAMAA on September 26: ‘We will destroy India if it dares to impose war on us. Pakistan army is fully prepared to answer any misadventure of India.
‘We have not made an atomic device to display in a showcase. If a such a situation arises we will use it and eliminate India.’
India has evacuated more than 10,000 villagers living near the border with Pakistan, amid concerns that there could be a military escalation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Thursday ordered federal and state security forces to upgrade surveillance along the frontier in Jammu and Kashmir state, part of the 3,300-km (2,100 miles) border between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The evacuation was launched after India said it had launched strikes across the Line of Control, or de factor border, into Pakistan-ruled Kashmir against suspected militants preparing to carry out attacks in India.
‘Our top priority is to move women and children to government buildings, guest houses and marriage halls,’ said Nirmal Singh, deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
‘People who have not been able to migrate were instructed not to venture out of their houses early in the morning or late in the night.’
India and Pakistan have gone to war four times since they gained independence from Britain in 1947 and diplomats are concerned the situation in Kashmir may be the trigger for another conflict.
India said it had conducted ‘surgical strikes’ along the disputed border with Pakistan – known as the Line Of Control – in a bid to thwart attacks by those it claims are ‘terrorists’.
Pakistan and India often trade fire in Kashmir, which is split between the two countries and claimed by both in its entirety.
Both countries have troops stationed on the strategic Siachen Glacier, which is so cold that soldiers are regularly warned not to fall asleep while on duty for fear of freezing to death.
Earlier this month 18 Indian soldiers were killed in an attack by Kashmiri rebels, who New Delhi suggests are supported by Pakistan.
India said the attack on the Uri army base was carried out by a Pakistan-based group called Jaish-e-Mohammed.
More than 80 people have been killed in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir since July, many of them civilians shot by the army.
India and Pakistan are both now believed to possess nuclear weapons, which makes the current tensions even more alarming.
Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, India’s director-general of military operations, said today it had carried out ‘surgical strikes’ on Wednesday night.
Pakistan’s military said two of its soldiers had been killed by ‘cross-border fire’ and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned India’s ‘naked aggression’.
Lt Gen Singh said: ‘Some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launchpads along the Line of Control.’
He said they had ‘very specific and credible’ intelligence about ‘terrorist launchpads’ near the villages of Bhimber, Kel and Lipa.
Lt Gen Singh said: ‘Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them.
‘The operations aimed at neutralising the terrorists have since ceased.’
He said the operation was designed to stop those who planned ‘to carry out infiltration and terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and various other metros in our country’.
Lt Gen Singh said: ‘The operations were basically focused to ensure that these terrorists do not succeed in their design of infiltration and carrying out destruction and endangering the lives of citizens of our country.’
But Pakistan reacted angrily. A statement by the military read: ‘There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross-border fire initiated and conducted by India.
‘As per rules of engagement same was strongly and befittingly responded by Pakistani troops.
‘The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by Indian to create false effects.
‘This quest by Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of truth.’
On Tuesday India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced he would not attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Islamabad in November, a major snub to Pakistan.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since they gained independence in 1947.
The Indian-controlled part has a Muslim majority and there are a number of armed separatist groups who are fighting to break free from New Delhi.
China said this week it hoped ‘Pakistan and India will strengthen channels for dialogue, appropriately handle any differences, improve bilateral relations and together protect the region’s piece and stability’ but it is widely believed to be backing Pakistan.
India recently threatened to cut off water to Pakistan from rivers it controls but it is thought to have backed off after China warned it would respond by reducing the flow of water from Himalayan rivers which end up in India.