In the run-up to India's elections this week, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made a startling statement on Sunday that Delhi was planning more military action against Pakistan in the third week of April and called on the international community to reprimand India for its irresponsible conduct.
The foreign minister, while addressing a press conference in Multan, announced that the government has "reliable intelligence that India is devising a new plan".
"I am speaking responsibly, I hold a position of responsibility, and I know the words I utter will be picked up by the international media," Qureshi prefaced.
Take a look: How Pakistan, India pulled back from brink of war
"Preparations are being made, and there are chances of another attack against Pakistan. According to our information, the action could be taken between April 16 and 20.
"A new mishap could be staged in Indian-occupied Kashmir, just like [the] Pulwama [attack]. And its purpose will be to justify their [India's] offensive against Pakistan and to increase diplomatic pressure against Islamabad."
On February 14, at least 40 Indian security personnel were killed in a suicide attack in occupied Kashmir's Pulwama — India had immediately hurled allegations of Pakistan's involvement, whereas Islamabad strongly rejected the claim and asked for "actionable evidence".
Subsequently on Feb 26, Indian warplanes violated Pakistani airspace and allegedly struck what New Delhi claimed was a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) training camp — a claim never proved by India.
The next day, Pakistani jets fired at various targets from across the Line of Control. As the Indian Air Force engaged the Pakistani jets, the PAF shot down two Indian warplanes ─ one of which crashed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir ─ and captured an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan. The pilot was released on March 1 as a gesture of peace by the Pakistani government.
"If it [action by India] happens, you can imagine the impact of the occurrence on the peace and stability of the region," warned Qureshi on Sunday.
He said that Pakistan has already briefed the United Nations Security Council's P5 [permanent five member countries] over the issue and stated Pakistan's apprehensions.
"We want the international community to take notice of this irresponsible behaviour and reprimand them [India] for taking this route," he said.
Qureshi also criticised the global community for remaining silent over Indian aggression against Pakistan on Feb 26. He said that international powers did not reprimand India despite blatant violation of international laws on the part of India due to geopolitics.
"The international community, given the sensitivity of this flashpoint, should not remain silent," he stated, adding that the global community should and would have to play their role in this regard.
India, hours after the press conference, "rejected" Qureshi's statement, saying it was "intended to whip up war hysteria in the region".
FO warns India against 'misadventure'
Later on Sunday, the Foreign Office summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner and handed him a demarche to convey Islamabad's objections.
"India has been strongly warned by Pakistan in case of any [planned] misadventure," the FO spokesperson told DawnNewsTV, adding that the warning was issued following Foreign Minister Qureshi's press conference.
India was also informed that it should expect a fitting response from Pakistan if the former resorts "to any aggression", the spokesperson revealed.
India's MEA responds
India's Ministry of External Affairs responded sharply to Qureshi's statement, terming it "irresponsible and preposterous" and accusing Qureshi of "whipping up war hysteria in the region".
It also accused Pakistan of encouraging terrorists to undertake a terror attack in India and said Pakistan "cannot absolve itself of responsibility of a cross border terrorist attack in India".
"No attempt at creating an alibi for its complicity in such attacks will succeed," the statement read, before repeating India's mantra on cross-border terrorism.
"Pakistan has been advised to use established diplomatic and DGMO channels to share any actionable and credible intelligence it has about imminent terror attacks," it concluded.
India's false claim
Qureshi's remarks come a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan rebuked Indian leadership over its false claim of shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in a dogfight amid growing tension between the two countries in February.
“India’s claim that one of its fighter pilots shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in an aerial battle between the two nuclear powers in February appears to be wrong,” read a report posted on Thursday on the website of US-based Foreign Policy magazine.
“The truth always prevails and is always the best policy,” the prime minister tweeted in response. “BJP’s attempt to win the elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claim of downing a Pak F-16 has backfired with US defence officials also confirming that no F-16 was missing from Pakistan’s fleet.”
The Foreign Policy report serves a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government just days before the beginning of India’s general elections, in which the premier is seeking another term in office.
With additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui in Islamabad.