India has demanded that Pakistan crack down on terror groups operating from its territory after a deadly suicide bombing claimed by a Pakistan-based Islamist group killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir.
Hours after the February 14 attack, the Indian Foreign Ministry called on Islamabad to "stop supporting terrorists and terror groups" who use Pakistan as a base and “dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries."
The Kashmir bombing, claimed by the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), was the deadliest attack in decades on security forces in the disputed region.
The Indian Foreign Ministry accused the Pakistani government of providing the militant group with a safe haven and allowing its leader, Masood Azhar, "to operate and expand his terror infrastructure in territories under the control of Pakistan and to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere with impunity."
"I strongly condemn this dastardly attack. The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.
Arun Jaitley, a senior minister in Modi's cabinet, told a live TV broadcast on February 15 that India would retaliate, asserting that New Delhi had "incontrovertible evidence" of Pakistan's involvement in the attack.
He said India will take all possible diplomatic steps to ensure "complete isolation" of Islamabad in the international community. Those responsible will have to "pay a heavy price," he added.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on February 15 called the attack a matter of "grave concern," but it said it strongly rejected "any insinuation by elements in the Indian government and media circles that seek to link the attack to the State of Pakistan without investigations."
Security officials said a militant rammed an explosive-filled van into a convoy of paramilitary police, targeting a bus that was carrying at least 35 personnel. At least 20 people were wounded, many critically.
Muneer Ahmed Khan, a senior police official, said the convoy was hit as it reached the southern town of Lethpora near the larger city of Srinagar. The targeted bus was destroyed and at least five other vehicles were damaged, he said.
Sanjay Sharma, a spokesman for India's paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, said the explosion was "so powerful that one cannot recognize whether the vehicle was a bus or a truck. Just pieces of mangled steel remain of the vehicle."
The White House issued a statement also urging Pakistan "to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil."
It added that the tragedy would serve to strengthen U.S. resolve to heighten counterterrorism cooperation with India.
India has long accused Pakistan of supporting militants in Muslim-majority Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two nuclear archrivals but claimed in full by both since independence from British colonial rule in 1947. The countries have fought two wars over the region.
Pakistan denies the allegations, saying it only provides diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for the right to self-determination.
The last major attack in Kashmir was in 2016, when militants that New Delhi said came from Pakistan raided an Indian Army camp in Uri, killing 20 soldiers. Islamabad denied any involvement.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP