The director-general of military operations for the Indian Army has said that Pakistan and India are on the brink of war.
Tensions between the two nuclear powers are at an all time high after 18 Indian soldiers were killed at an army base in Kashmir, which the director-general blamed on Pakistani terrorists.
An Indian army soldier takes position during an army barracks attack, near the border with Pakistan, September 18, 2016.
The allegation unleashed a torrent of fury on social media.
“Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such,” tweeted Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister.
Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 18, 2016
Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s Secretary General Ram Madhav took to Facebook. “For one tooth, the complete jaw,” he posted, seeming to imply a disproportionate retaliation.
On India’s many TV news channels, a steady drum beat calling for war gained momentum, reaching a crescendo of sorts in primetime.
Arnab Goswami, the host of the country’s most-watched English news hour, expressed rage at Pakistan: “We need to cripple them, we need to bring them down on their knees.”
One of his guests, a retired army general, went a step further: “We must be seen as inflicting punishment on Pakistan by non-terrorist means … the nation needs a catharsis!”
But what about the ready nuclear arsenals both countries possessed? Surely that would be a deterrent?
The retired army man, Major General G. D. Bakshi, had a clear answer: “Pakistan is one-fifth the size of India. If we fire even a part of our arsenal, most of it will be on the Pakistani Punjab, from where the Pakistani army comes: Not a crop will grow there for 800 years!”
“Let’s stop self-deterring ourselves,” he cried.
Pakistan put together a terse response.
Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, issued a statement saying the country “categorically rejects the baseless and irresponsible accusations being leveled by senior officials in Prime Minister Modi’s government.”
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman told CNN that India was “desperately looking for ways to deflect the world’s attention from the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir,” referring to the protests and unrest there.
And emotions have boiled over on the Pakistani side, too.
In New York on Monday, an Indian journalist was reportedly asked to leave a press briefing by the Pakistani foreign secretary.
“Remove this Indian,” were the words an official used in Hindi, according to NDTV, the Indian news channel whose reporter was purportedly forced to walk away.