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Tensions Between India And Pakistan Boil Over Into Violence

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tensions between two neighbors, India and Pakistan, boiled over today into violence. India says its military jets dropped bombs inside Pakistan. The target - a training camp run by a militant group that claims it was behind the recent killing of Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports from New Delhi, where many people are celebrating the attack.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD SINGING)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Indian police broke out in a patriotic song. Civilians waved India's tricolor flag and handed out sweets at an intersection here in the capital, New Delhi. Ever since a suicide car bomb killed 40 Indian troops earlier this month, many Indians have been calling for retaliation against a Pakistan-based group that claimed responsibility. The group is called Jaish-e-Muhammad. It's a U.S.-designated terror group, and it operates out of Pakistan, even though it's banned there. At a news conference today in New Delhi, India's foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said Pakistani authorities have failed to act.

VIJAY GOKHALE: India has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take action against the Jaish-e-Muhammad to prevent jihadis from being trained and armed inside Pakistan. Pakistan has taken no concrete action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil.

FRAYER: So he says India acted on its own with airstrikes today. He said they killed a very large number of militants, trainees and Jaish-e-Muhammad leaders. Pakistan gave a very different account. It confirmed that Indian fighter jets entered its airspace, but Pakistan's military spokesperson said they dropped their payload on an empty field and that there was no damage and no casualties.

DHRUVA JAISHANKAR: Pakistan tends to deny. It helps to manage their own domestic expectations. We saw this also after the U.S. attack on Abbottabad when Osama bin Laden was killed.

FRAYER: Dhruva Jaishankar, a fellow at Brookings India here in New Delhi, says that India is thinking about domestic audiences, as well, ahead of elections this spring. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been dogged by disappointing unemployment numbers.

JAISHANKAR: But clearly, there's now a narrative to push with the forthcoming elections and the campaigning already very much underway.

FRAYER: Modi held a rally today...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NARENDRA MODI: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: ...At which he sought to assure citizens that their country is, quote, "in safe hands." Lauren Frayer, NPR News, New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.