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New Delhi: Nearly 48 years after the 1971 war, Indian warplanes on Tuesday once again flew into Pakistani territory to carry out a bombing operation.

The difference this time is that both nations are nuclear-armed, lending any response a potentially dangerous edge.

Even as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj made it clear on Tuesday that India’s war was “not against Pakistan, but against terror", Pakistan sounded a warning, declaring that it would convene a meeting of the National Command Authority on Wednesday—the apex body that oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.

“As you all know, Pakistani government has called a meeting of National Command Authority tomorrow. I hope you know what that means," said Pakistan army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor.

However, an official in New Delhi said on condition of anonymity that any move by Pakistan to initiate a nuclear war would be met by international sanctions. India was more than capable of “calling their bluff", the official said, a view that former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had articulated on Monday. Dismissing talk of a nuclear war, Musharraf said that “if Pakistan would attack India with one atomic bomb, then New Delhi could finish us by attacking with 20 bombs".

According to another official, Pakistan now has three options: “Over the next few weeks, Pakistan may either escalate things by way of military offensive to which India will give a fitting response. Or cross-border skirmishes such as ceasefire violations and sporadic terror strikes may go up manifold. Or an alternative route of dialogue—even though improbable—may open up between the two countries."

Hours after the IAF air strikes across Chakothi and Muzaffarabad along the Line of Control and Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, Pakistan began heavy shelling at Akhnoor in the Nowshera sector and in the Krishna Ghati sector of Jammu and Kashmir, violating the ceasefire four times in a span of five hours.

On the Indian side, people familiar with the developments said that all air force stations, naval commands and military stations had been put on high alert. While all officers on leave had been recalled to their stations, troop mobilization was ongoing in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Mobilization akin to Operation Parakram (2001-02) is ongoing now. We are prepared for any eventuality in case Pakistan chooses to retaliate," said a senior security force official, requesting anonymity.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh said: “The state is on alert. I will be touring border areas tomorrow. We are ready for any eventuality. I told the Union home minister (Rajnath Singh) that if there is anything that Punjab can do, we are there for the defence of our country."

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