As tensions escalated last month between India and Pakistan across their borders in Kashmir, the two nuclear-armed neighbors threatened to fire a barrage of missiles at each other, sources say.
Government sources in New Delhi and Islamabad said India at one stage threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan which pledged to respond with its own missile strikes “three times over.”
The exchanges, however, did not get beyond threats and there was no indication that the missiles involved were anything more than conventional weapons, the sources said.
A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad confirmed a specific Indian threat to use six missiles on targets inside Pakistan.
The minister said Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies “were communicating with each other during the fight, and even now they are communicating with each other.”
Pakistan said it would counter any Indian missile attacks with many more launches of its own, the minister told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond three times to that,” the Pakistani minister said.
The Pakistani minister also hailed the role of China and certain other countries in mediating to ease tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.
India has also said it was in touch with major powers during the conflict, without providing further details.
The tensions soared following a car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir on February 14. India accused the main Pakistani intelligence agency of involvement and vowed retaliation.
The tensions then reached a peak after India said it had conducted “preemptive” airstrikes against what it described as a militant training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.
Days later, the Pakistani military captured an Indian pilot after shooting down his MiG-21 fighter jet, which Islamabad said had violated its airspace.
The flare-up between the two arch-foes appeared to be easing after Pakistan handed back Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, whose return was meant to be a goodwill gesture toward India.
Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.
Indian troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks. Pakistan strongly denies the allegation.