Pakistan’s air force closed a major highway on Thursday to let it practice landing jets on the road, in what it said was routine training not related to heightened tension with India after a deadly attack in the disputed Kashmir region.
The attack in the frontier town of Uri the latest in a decades-long dispute over Kashmir has raised new fears of military conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
On Thursday, traffic on Pakistan’s busy main highway between Islamabad and Lahore was diverted to an older mountain road during the two-day air force exercise, dubbed High Mark. “They landed on the road in this, yes.
That is something they have been doing for years,” Pakistan Air Force spokesman Commodore Javed Mohammad Ali said. The drill was needed “in case your runways get damaged or they are not available for you,” he added.
The exercise was not ordered in response to recent tensions with India and the timing was a coincidence, he said. “This exercise, High Mark, is not done overnight just like that,” he said, describing it as “a routine training matter”.
Another security official, however, said the Pakistani military was on high alert in case India decided to retaliate for the Uri attack with cross-border military force. So far, India’s military response to the Uri attack has been limited to skirmishes near the Line of Control.
The Indian army said on Thursday it had foiled two attempts by militants to infiltrate into Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday night.
Recorder Report adds:
‘High Mark Exercise 2016’ was a routine affair envisaging the closure of airspace over northern areas in which F-16 aircraft land on motorways besides carrying out exercise in northern areas of Pakistan, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) said on Thursday.
A PAF spokesman said that ‘High Mark Exercise 2016’ is a regular feature of Pakistan Air Force which takes place after every 5 to 6 years, adding these exercises are of great significance for the airforce.
“The PAF regularly takes part in such exercises in different countries, while the PAF also conducts these kinds of exercises in the country after every 5 to 6 years, which has nothing to do with the recent tension between Indian and Pakistan fowling Uri terror attack,” he added.
However Lt Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi (Retd), who is currently a senator of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said the exercise was necessary to send a message to India that Pakistan is capable of responding in case of any threat.
Lt Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi (Retd) added “India thinks it could launch a limited war, but if a war starts it will be a full scale war, which is neither in the interest of India nor Pakistan’s so they [Indians] must not think of war with Pakistan.”
According to a spokesman of National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) the closure of M1 and M2 motorways at multiple points between Kala Shah Kaku and Sheikhupura/Gujranwala on the M2 and near Peshawar-Nowshera had been announced. -Reuters