NEW DELHI / SRINAGAR, Sept 17: India has deployed its top fighter jets in occupied Kashmir, officials and a report said on Wednesday.
At least six Soviet-built Sukhoi-30MKI jets, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, have been deployed at Avantipura air force base near Srinagar.
The base is equipped with crash-prone MiG-21 jets, which India first imported from the Soviet Union in the 1960s.
“The Sukhois had been held deep down our strategic corridor in Pune, and their deployment in Kashmir will address any perceived threat,” an air force official said on condition he was not named.
“But this is a defensive stance,” the officer said.
Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, commander of India’s western air command, was quoted by the Hindustan Times newspaper as saying the deployment was “temporary.” India acquired 60 Sukhoi-30s in 2001. The two-seater frontline jets can carry eight tons of armaments, including nuclear bombs and cruise at a speed of 3,200km an hour.
The air force official said the Sukhois would patrol Indian borders extending up to China and fly across Kashmir’s rugged Kargil peaks, where India and Pakistan fought a mini-war in 1999.
The Indian Air Force, the world’s fourth largest, is also planning to deploy up to 40 Sukhoi jets in the northeast close to the border with China, the official added.
The Kashmir deployment comes amid strains in the India-Pakistan peace process, with New Delhi accusing Islamabad of renewed support for cross-border militancy and ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.
SHOT DEAD: Meanwhile, an Indian soldier was shot dead by militants and at least 30 people were wounded on Wednesday in two attacks by militants in occupied Kashmir, police said.
Militants threw a grenade into a crowded market in Srinagar, injuring 30 people, including four policemen, police said. The attack was aimed at a police jeep, they added.
“The blast created panic in the busy area and people ran for cover in shops and buildings,” said Latif Ahmed, a shopkeeper who witnessed the blast.
In a separate attack, an Indian soldier was killed in an encounter with militants in Kupwara sector, police said.—Agencies
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