| SRINAGAR, India, Sept 30
SRINAGAR, India, Sept 30 India has evacuated
more than 10,000 villagers living near the border with Pakistan,
amid concerns that there could be a military escalation after
its special forces launched a cross-border operation against
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government ordered federal
and state security forces to upgrade surveillance along the
frontier in Jammu and Kashmir state, part of the 3,300-km (2,100
miles) border between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The evacuation was launched after India said it had launched
strikes across the Line of Control, or de factor border, into
Pakistan-ruled Kashmir against suspected militants preparing to
carry out attacks in India.
The highly unusual announcement on Thursday of what India
called "surgical strikes" raised the possibility of military
escalation between the rivals that could wreck a 2003 Kashmir
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, each
controlling part of the territory but claiming it in full.
In Pakistan, the Indian version of events was met with
scepticism, with television news channels and newspapers
reporting that such surgical strikes had not taken place. They
reported small arms and mortar fire, which is a relatively
routine occurrence on the heavily militarised Line of Control.
Pakistan's Express Tribune, an affiliate of the New York
Times, led its edition with the headline "'Surgical' farce blows
up in India's face".
"These are India's diversionary tactics... If they actually
do an act like this, our army is ready," Sartaj Aziz, the
country's foreign policy chief, told local television channel
Geo TV ahead of a cabinet meeting to be chaired by Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday.
Hundreds of villages were being cleared along a 15 km (9
mile) strip that runs along the border in the lowland region of
Jammu and near the Line of Control further north in the
mountains of Kashmir.
"Our top priority is to move women and children to
government buildings, guest houses and marriage halls," said
Nirmal Singh, deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
"People who have not been able to migrate were instructed
not to venture out of their houses early in the morning or late
in the night."
Domestic pressure had been building on Modi to retaliate
after 19 soldiers were killed in a Sept. 18 attack on an Indian
army base in Kashmir that India blames on infiltrators who
crossed from Pakistani territory.
A senior leader of Modi's nationalist ruling party declared
himself satisfied with India's "multi-pronged" response to the
attack on the army base.
"For Pakistan, terrorism has come as a cheaper option all
these years. Time to make it costly for it," Ram Madhav,
national general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, wrote
in a column for the Indian Express newspaper.
Modi's government has been struggling to contain protests on
the streets of Kashmir where more than 80 civilians have been
killed and thousands wounded in the last 10 weeks after a young
seperatist militant was killed by Indian forces.
Farmer Rakesh Singh, 56, who lives in the Arnia sector of
Jammu, said his family were among the first to leave home
because his village was within range of Pakistan's artillery.
"We suffer the most," he said. "It is nothing new for us."
(Additional reporting by Asad Hashim in Islamabad; Writing by
Rupam Jain; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Nick Macfie)