India claims destruction of Pakistani terror camp. Does the truth matter?

India claims destruction of Pakistani terror camp. Does the truth matter?

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Images released by the Pakistani military (left) and the Indian Air Force show a very different account of Tuesday's Indian air strikes. February 26, 2019.
Images released by the Pakistani military (left) and the Indian Air Force show a very different account of Tuesday's Indian air strikes. February 26, 2019.

"In the sort of jingoistic social media world that we’re in, everyone’s happy with their interpretation of events," argues Gareth Price.

UNITED NATIONS – The Indian military claimed to have destroyed a major terrorist training base in Pakistan early Tuesday morning, saying some 350 terrorists were killed in a series of cross-border air strikes that lasted more than 20 minutes.

India accuses Pakistan of harboring the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad, which carried out a brazen Valentine’s Day attack that killed 40 Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Pakistan denies any such responsibility and has a very different account of Tuesday’s events, saying Indian planes spent just four minutes in Pakistani airspace, and after being intercepted by Pakistan jets, released their payloads on a forested hillside.

While both accounts can’t be true, Gareth Price, senior research fellow for the Asia-Pacific Program at the London think tank Chatham House, isn’t certain that matters.

“On the Pakistan side they’re saying that they scrambled their jets, some Indian bombs landed in a forest, a few trees fell down and that was what happened, and they have some pictures showing that. India has some pictures of the terrorist training camp, which they say they destroyed and in the sort of jingoistic social media world that we’re in, everyone’s happy with their interpretation of events.”

But that doesn’t mean the recent flare-up in tensions has already peaked.

A spokesperson for the Pakistani military threatened Tuesday that India should expect a military retaliation in the form of a “surprise,” though he notably stopped short of mentioning possible use of the country’s nuclear weapons.

Despite the heat of the moment, Price thinks both India and Pakistan can stop short of a major escalation and return to something that, while it hardly looks like peace, is a far cry from nuclear war.

“I’d imagine we go back to the situation where there is more shelling across the border and it’s kind of manageable. It’s not obviously the ideal situation, but it happens and it’s happening to satisfy domestic audiences, and India and Pakistan have proven that they can carry on at that level for some time.”

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