NEW DELHI - Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Monday accused the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group of attacking on an army camp in Indian Kashmir and vowed that "Pakistan will pay for this misadventure."
The pre-dawn assault on Saturday by heavily armed militants claimed the lives of five soldiers, one civilian and three militants. Women and children were among 10 people wounded as the militants breached the residential quarters inside the camp.
It was the worst militant attack in months in Kashmir and threatened to fuel tensions between India and Pakistan, whose ties are already at a low point.
Sitharaman visited the camp on Monday after it was secured by dozens of troops following a two-day gun battle.
Stating at a press conference that terrorists who carried out the assault were controlled by handlers from across the border, the defense minister said "Pakistan is expanding the arc of terror to the areas south of Pir Panjal [Himalayan] ranges and resorting to cease-fire violations to assist infiltration."
Militant attacks usually take place in the Kashmir valley, but the assault took place in Jammu, which lies to the south and has been relatively free of violence. New Delhi has long accused Pakistan of arming and training militants and helping them cross the border into Indian Kashmir to conduct strikes against Indian targets — allegations Islamabad denies.
In a statement issued on Monday before the Indian defense minister's press conference, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry accused India of "making irresponsible statements and leveling unfounded allegations, even before any proper investigation in any incident has been initiated." It called on the international community to urge India to stop violations of human rights in Kashmir and "refrain from any misadventure across the Line of Control" that divides Kashmir between the two countries.
In 2016, India said its troops had crossed into Pakistani Kashmir and carried out a raid on militant camps after an attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, Mehbooba Mufti, in a tweet on Monday, called for talks with Pakistan. "Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end bloodshed,"the minister said.
Analysts, however, say that is unlikely to happen due to the tough position taken by the federal government in New Delhi. "The diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan are virtually non-functional right now," said Manoj Joshi at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. "The government is saying we will crush the militancy and then we will talk to Pakistan."
More violence flared in the restive region on Monday. Indian officials said one soldier was killed as security forces foiled an attempted attack on a paramilitary camp in Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both, lies at the heart of their bitter relations. India accuses Pakistan of supporting armed militants to fuel an insurgency in India's only Muslim majority region, while Islamabad accuses New Delhi of human rights violations against Kashmiris.