International

Pakistan takes media, diplomats on tour of Balakot

Pakistan has escorted a group of foreign journalists and diplomats to the site of an Indian air strike to show that, contrary to New Delhi’s claims, no infrastructure was damaged, the military spokesman said.

The visiting group, which Major General Asif Ghafoor said was mostly based in New Delhi, was shown observing a crater in Balakot in video published via Twitter late on April 10, on the eve of the first phase of Lok Sabha elections.

The group saw the “ground realities” of the strike site, Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said in a caption accompanying the tweet.

Pakistan has denied from the start that there was any damage or casualties, with Prime Minister Imran Khan framing it as an election ploy.

But independent reporting by multiple local and international outlets who have visited the site found no evidence of a major terrorist training camp — or of any infrastructure damage at all.

An AFP reporter who visited just hours after the strike was carried out saw damage only to trees and one mud hut. Local residents have said no one was killed.

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab said that open-source satellite imagery indicated “only impacts in the wooded area, with no damage being visible to the surrounding structures”.

The strike was in retaliation to a suicide bombing in Pulwama on February 14 that was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based militant outfit.

It was followed by Pakistani air strikes which hit open space in Indian territory and ignited a dogfight in the skies over Kashmir.

Pakistan said it shot down two Indian war planes, with one falling on the Indian side. It captured the pilot of the other, releasing him days later in a bid to defuse tensions.

India says just one of its planes was shot down, and claimed that the second plane was a Pakistani F-16 shot down by the Indian Air Force.

Pakistan has denied that claim also, and Foreign Policy has reported that the U.S. had done a count of all Pakistan’s F-16s, with none missing.

Source: thehindu.com

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