Reuters

A top Indian minister said on Saturday the government would not share proof that “a very large number” of militants were killed in air strikes inside Pakistan this week after doubts were raised there were any casualties in the attack that stoked tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The flare-up appeared to be easing on Saturday after Pakistan handed back a captured Indian fighter pilot on Friday night, amid efforts by global powers to prevent another war between the arch enemies.

However shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) that acts as a de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region, a frequent feature in recent weeks, continued, said military officials on both sides.

Hostilities escalated rapidly following a suicide car bombing on Feb. 14 that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of harboring the Jaish-e Mohammad Islamist group that claimed the bombing.

Indian warplanes carried out air strikes on Tuesday inside northeast Pakistan’s Balakot on what New Delhi called militant camps. Islamabad denied any such camps existed, as did local villagers in the area when Reuters visited.

Nevertheless, Pakistan retaliated on Wednesday with its own aerial mission.

Pakistan said the Indian bombs hit a largely empty hillside without hurting anyone. Some Indian opposition leaders have asked the government to share evidence of the strikes.

But India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top lieutenants, said: “no security agencies ever share operational details”.

“It’s a very irresponsible stand,” Jaitley said at a conference organized by the India Today media group.

“The armed forces must have, and our security and intelligence agencies must have, a full leeway in dealing with situations, and if anybody wants operational details to be made public … he certainly does not understand the system.”

Indian Air Force officials said earlier it was up to the political leaders to decide when and how to release evidence of the Balakot strike.

Jaitley dismissed suggestions that the rapid escalation in tensions with Pakistan had anything to do with India’s domestic politics ahead of a general election due by May. Pollsters expect the ruling party to benefit from the nationalistic passion sweeping the country.

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