Islamabad questions New Delhi's "intelligence lapses", says India accepted unverified social media content as "gold standard" to accuse Pakistan of role in last week's suicide attack in disputed Kashmir that killed 44 Indian soldiers.

Ties have strained between the nuclear-armed neighbours following a suicide attack on a convoy in Kashmir on Thursday that killed 44 Indian paramilitary troops.
Ties have strained between the nuclear-armed neighbours following a suicide attack on a convoy in Kashmir on Thursday that killed 44 Indian paramilitary troops. (AP)

Pakistan on Sunday underlined gaps in Indian claims and rejected accusation of sheltering a militant group that claimed a suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir last week, killing at least 44 India soldiers, and provoking calls for "revenge" from across India.

"India needs to introspect and respond to questions about its security and intelligence lapses that led to this attack," Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"India [also] owes an explanation on reports of Adil Ahmed Dar's arrest and custody since 2017," the ministry said.

Troops hunting for suspects

Pakistani reaction came as hundreds of Indian troops were on Sunday hunting for the Kashmir chief of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (or JeM) believed to have masterminded a car bombing on an Indian paramilitary convoy.

India has warned of "crushing response" and demands Pakistan close down the JeM and other rebel groups that operate from its soil. Islamabad says it is not linked to the attack.

Within Kashmir, Indian military and police officials were looking for Mohammed Umair, the commander ofJeM in the region, believed to have plotted the attack.

A police official said they had information that Umair had "radicalised and motivated" 20-year-old Dar who rammed a car laden with explosives into the convoy on Thursday.  

Local media quoted the attacker's parents as saying that the young man had turned to militancy after he was humiliated and beaten up by Indian soldiers.

The Indian police "made him rub his nose on ground… They forced the boy to make a circle around their jeep with his nose. He kept mentioning this incident again and again," the attacker's father Ghulam Hassan Dar told Scroll.in.

His mother, Fahmeeda, corroborated her husband's account.

"He was beaten by Indian troops a few years back when he was returning from school," she said. "This led to anger in him against Indian troops."

Both parents said they were unaware of their son's plan to attack the convoy.

'Well-rehearsed tactics from Indian playbook'

Pakistan rejected Indian allegations on Sunday, saying "these were made within a short time from the attack and without carrying out any investigations."

"These knee-jerk and pre-conceived accusations were nevertheless consistent with well-rehearsed tactics from Indian playbook after such incidents in the past."

Pakistan's foreign ministry said JeM remains a proscribed entity in Pakistan since 2002 and Pakistan is implementing its obligations on sanctions implementation.

As for Indian assertions about "JeM claims of responsibility" and purported "video of the attacker", the ministry questioned the "selective and self-serving standards that India adhered to in this respect."

The Greater Kashmir newspaper in India-administered Kashmir, reported that the militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.

'Electoral resonance'

With India's general election barely months away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under heavy pressure from his supporters to punish arch-rival Pakistan for the attack.

Paul Staniland, a political science professor and South Asia expert at the University of Chicago, said Pakistan's army is assuming it will be attacked and that Indian forces are preparing for a serious incursion of some sort.

Staniland said the stakes are too high for India to do nothing at all.

"Modi is in a tricky position," he said. "Indian forces are quite capable, but it's not obvious what kinds of strikes would accomplish the core goal. Kashmir and Pakistan are among the few foreign policy topics that have real electoral resonance."

The general election is scheduled to be held before May.

'Unverified social media content'

On Sunday, Pakistan said there was clear dichotomy in Indian position, saying "on the one hand, India accepted the unverified social media content as 'gold standard'."

In contrast, India chose denial when confronted with voluntary confessions and acceptance of responsibility by its serving naval commander Jadev [Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav] for perpetrating terrorist violence in Pakistan."

Pakistani authorities say Jadhav, 48, was arrested in March 2016 in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, the site of a long-running conflict between security forces and separatists.

Jadhav was sentenced to death by Islamabad for allegedly being an Indian intelligence agency spy.

Pakistan said it desires normalisation of relations with India, but "bluster, belligerence and pursuit of expedient standards to suit internal political interests is both delusional and counterproductive."

The ministry said India must "end state repression against Kashmiri youth, address widespread alienation in Indian-occupied Kashmir and pursue the path of dialogue."

Kashmir at heart of tensions

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 and regularly exchange fire along their highly militarised but de facto border in Kashmir.

Indian soldiers, around 500,000, are ubiquitous in Kashmir and local residents make little secret of their fury toward their presence in the tiny Himalayan region.

Most Kashmiris support the rebels' demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

READ MORE: 'It's time to talk about the occupation in Kashmir, not a war over it'

READ MORE: On Kashmir Day: A look into Pakistan-administered Kashmir

Source: TRTWorld and agencies