A day after new Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane warned Pakistan of a "resolute punitive response" to terror strikes from across the border, two Indian soldiers were killed on Wednesday.
The incident reportedly occurred during a security operation against heavily armed suspected Pakistani infiltrators along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates both countries in the Jammu and Kashmir region.
"Two army soldiers martyred during cordon and search operation in Nowshera sector. The operation is still in progress and further details are awaited", Lt. Col. Devender Anand, the Indian Army’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), stated in Jammu city.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the forest area after being tipped off about the movement of suspected terrorists. In the fierce gunfight that ensued, two soldiers were killed, the army official said.
The encounter with the infiltrators came a day after General Naravane said India retains the right to give an effective counter response to Pakistan’s repeated attempts to cross the border to create an atmosphere of instability.
"If Pakistan does not stop its policy of state-sponsored terrorism, we reserve the right to pre-emptively strike at the sources of terror threat and this intent has adequately been demonstrated in our response during surgical strikes and the Balakot operation. A new normal in our response mechanism has been emphatically underlined", said the army chief.
He was referring to the army's surgical strike on 29 September 2016 and the aerial surgical strike on 26 February 2019 on suspected terror launch pads in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
The first surgical strike in 2016 was in response to four militants attacking the Indian Army’s brigade headquarters in the town of Uri in a pre-dawn ambush on 18 September 2016. As many as 17 soldiers were killed and 19 to 30 others injured.
In the commando operation that followed 11 days later, the Indian Army claimed it had allegedly eliminated 150 terrorists.
During the aerial strike of 26 February 2019, the Indian Air Force (IAF) launched what it described as a pre-emptive missile strike on a suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist training camp in the Balakot region of Pakistan to avenge the 14 February suicide bomb killing of 40 paramilitary personnel in the Pulwama region of Jammu and Kashmir.
The subsequent retaliation by the Pakistan Air Force on 27 February triggered fears of a war breaking out between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
But a diplomatic outreach by major powers (US, China, Russia, France, and the UK) as well as New Delhi’s warning to Islamabad averted further escalation.