Pakistan takes media, diplomats on visit to Indian strike site

The group saw the “ground realities” of the strike site. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 April 2019
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Pakistan takes media, diplomats on visit to Indian strike site

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has campaigned hard on what he claims is the success of the February 26 strike
  • Pakistan has denied from the start that there was any damage or casualties

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has escorted a group of foreign journalists and diplomats to the site of an Indian air strike to show that, contrary to Delhi’s claims, no infrastructure was damaged, the military spokesman said.
The visiting group, which Major General Asif Ghafoor said was mostly based in Delhi, was shown observing a crater in Balakot in video published via Twitter late Wednesday, on the eve of India’s massive election.
The group saw the “ground realities” of the strike site, Ghafoor said in a caption accompanying the tweet.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has campaigned hard on what he claims is the success of the February 26 strike. Indian officials have claimed up to 250 militants were killed.
Pakistan has denied from the start that there was any damage or casualties, with Modi’s counterpart Imran Khan framing it as an election ploy.
With the first phase of polls in India’s massive election opening Thursday, Modi has styled himself as India’s “chowkidar” (“watchman“), and anyone even questioning the action against Pakistan is given short shrift.
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 Indian-held Kashmir on February 14 that was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group.
It was followed by Pakistani air strikes which hit open space in Indian territory and ignited a dogfight in the skies over the disputed region of Kashmir, the worst confrontation between the nuclear-armed foes in years.
Pakistan said it shot down two Indian war planes, with one falling on the Indian side of the de facto Kashmir border. 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 US had done a count of all Pakistan’s F-16s, with none missing.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over it.


Voting closing in race to become UK’s new prime minister

Updated 24 min 34 sec ago
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Voting closing in race to become UK’s new prime minister

  • Members of the governing Conservative Party had until 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to return postal ballots in the contest between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to lead the party

LONDON: Voting was closing Monday in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister, as critics of likely winner Boris Johnson condemned his vow to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a divorce deal.
Members of the governing Conservative Party had until 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to return postal ballots in the contest between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to lead the party.
The winner will be announced Tuesday, and will take over as the nation’s leader from Prime Minister Theresa May the following day.
Johnson, a populist former mayor of London, is the strong favorite.
Several members of May’s government have said they will resign before they can be fired by Johnson over their opposition to his threat to go through with a no-deal Brexit if he can’t secure a renegotiated settlement with the EU.
Most economists say quitting the 28-nation bloc without a deal would cause Britain economic turmoil. The UK’s official economic watchdog has forecast that a no-deal Brexit would trigger a recession, with the pound plummeting in value, borrowing soaring by 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) and the economy shrinking 2% in a year.
Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday that a no-deal Brexit would be “an act of economic self-harm that runs wholly counter to the national interest.”
EU leaders insist they won’t reopen the 585-page withdrawal agreement they made with May’s government, which has been repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament.
Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan quit Monday, lamenting in his resignation letter that “we have had to spend every day working beneath the dark cloud of Brexit.”
Other government ministers, including Treasury chief Philip Hammond, are set to resign on Wednesday.
The new prime minister will preside over a House of Commons in which most members oppose leaving the EU without a deal, and where the Conservative Party lacks an overall majority.
Opposition parties are preparing for an early election which could be triggered if the government loses a no-confidence vote in the coming months.
The centrist Liberal Democrats, who have seen a surge in support thanks to their strongly anti-Brexit stance, were set to declare the winner of their own leadership contest on Monday.