In the aftermath of the Uri attack, Pakistan now seems to be flexing its muscles preempting a strike from India to destroy terrorist targets in Pakistan. During the last few days, Pakistani Air Force has increased air exercises. There are now regular instances of fighter aircraft landings on major highways, closing of civilian airspace, cancelling of civilian flights for F-16s flying sorties over its capital Islamabad and air force using civilian airports for their operations.
On Thursday night, Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir posted pictures of an F-16 fighter flying over Islamabad. Prior to that, Pakistani fighter aircraft were seen landing on highways. Although Pakistani officials said these are part of a regular exercise called ‘High Mark’, the timings suggests otherwise.
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According to reports, Pakistani fighter aircraft carried out multiple take-off and landing exercises on a six-lane motorway connecting Islamabad with Lahore, close to the India-Pakistan border and another highway connecting Islamabad with Peshawar. Reports also mentioned that flights from Islamabad to Gilgit, Chitral and Skardu were cancelled and the situation will remain like this for the next few days. Reports also suggested that local airports in the region are being used by the air force.
The move appears to be defensive posturing. Islamabad looks to reiterate its preparedness to stop any offensive from India on Pakistan territory. It is also important to its response strategy as the country has failed to gain any support against India on the diplomatic front during the ongoing 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly.
After the terrorist attack on Indian Army’s Uri camp that killed 18 Indian soldiers, India stepped up pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorists behind the attack and other outfits operating from within its territory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government promised befitting action against the perpetrators of the attack. Considering the possible collateral damage in various retaliatory options, Pakistan may have calculated that India would prefer carrying out surgical strikes and air raids across the border to neutralise known terror camps and terrorists.
Nawaz Sharif raised the issue of Kashmir at the UNGA and tried to divert the issue of Uri attacks to Indian Army’s alleged excesses in the state. However, after considerable dialogue the international community is coming out and acknowledging Pakistan’s role as an international terror sponsor. In the past, after every attack on Indian territory, India’s primary response used to be generally non-military and ending of dialogues. This new aggressive stance posed by PM Modi seems to have rattled India’s western neighbour and now it seems that it is trying to show its readiness and resolve to counter India on the military front in case India launches any sort of military or covert strike.
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