Three separate U.S. drone strikes have killed at least eighteen people in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region of Waziristan on Sunday morning. At around the same time, to the east, Indian troops raided a Pakistani military post, killing one soldier and injuring another, the Pakistani military said. The incidents could further strain U.S.-Pakistan relationship and heighten tensions between the neighboring nuclear powers after a period of rapprochement.
Pakistani Islamists protested against the USA
According to Pakistani intelligence officials, the American strikes occurred at 2:30am in Babar Ghra area of Sakhtoi sub-division of South Waziristan. “As many as 10 missiles were fired at three hideouts of militants, believed to be Punjabi Taliban, in Babar Ghra area of Sakhtoi sub-division,” an intelligence official said.
Tribesmen in the adjoining Razmak area of the North Waziristan region told NBC News that they had heard heavy blasts overnight but could not confirm if the explosions were drone strikes. The drone campaign infuriates many Pakistanis who see them as a violation of their country’s sovereignty. Many Pakistanis complain that innocent civilians have also been killed, something the U.S. rejects.
Drone attacks are a continuing point of contention between the US and the Pakistani government. The United States is concerned about the increasing destabilization of Pakistan, the only nuclear-armed Muslim state, and that the nuclear weapons might possibly fall into the hands of radical groups.
The U.S. believes Pakistan has lost control of the South Waziristan province, which has since became a home base to the militant Hakim Ullah Mehsud group of the Pakistan Taliban and Haqqani network, and has taken unilateral action targeting extremists in the areas.
On the other hand, Indian troops have raided a Pakistani military post, killing one soldier and injuring another, the Pakistani military said. A statement from Pakistan army claimed it has repulsed the attack on the Sawan Patra checkpoint in Kashmir early on Sunday. “Pakistan army troops effectively responded and repulsed the attack.”
The two sides then exchanged fire across the Line of Control, an internationally recognized line in the disputed Kashmir region patrolled by troops from both countries.
Colonel Brijesh Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian army in Kashmir said that Pakistani troops “initiated unprovoked firing” and fired mortars and automatic weapons at Indian posts early Sunday morning. He said Pakistani shelling had destroyed a civilian home on the Indian side. “We retaliated only using small arms. We believe it was clearly an attempt on their part to facilitate infiltration of militants,” Pandey said.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, when they became independent from Britain. The two countries share many similarities in language and culture, though most of Pakistan’s citizens are Muslim and most of India’s Hindu, and that is a major factor of the clashes. The two countries fought their most recent war in 1999, when Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control and occupied Indian territory in Kargil. Due to Indian military advances laterwards, Pakistan were forced to withdraw.