efe-epaIslamabad

The Pakistan Army said on Friday that it was prepared to respond with full force to any aggression by India but was not seeking a war with the neighbor amid heightened tensions between the two nuclear powers after a suicide attack killed 42 security personnel in India-administered Kashmir last week.

"We do not wish for war, but we are prepared to respond with full force," said Asif Ghafoor, the head of Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistan Army's media wing.

"Don't mess with Pakistan," Ghafoor said in a press conference in Islamabad, adding that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had authorized the armed forces to respond to any aggression.

He said initial investigations suggested that the attack which took place in Kashmir's Pulwama district on Feb. 14 had been "planned and executed" locally.

The suicide attack, in which a vehicle full of explosives was detonated next to a bus carrying Indian paramilitary personnel, was claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group, which operates from a base in Pakistan.

After the attack, India said it would take "all diplomatic steps" to isolate Pakistan in the international community, revoked the most-favored nation trade status to Islamabad and hiked tariffs on all Pakistani imports to 200 percent.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had given a "free hand" to the military to respond to the attack, raising tensions and the prospects of an Indian military intervention against Pakistan.

In 2016, India had carried out "surgical strikes" on militant-launch pads across the Line of Control - the de-facto border between the two sides in the disputed Kashmir region - and claimed to kill many.

The cross border strike came 11 days after a militant attack allegedly originating in Pakistan led to the death of 18 Indian soldiers in a military base in Kashmir's border area of Uri.

On the Indian claims of surgical strikes, Islamabad had admitted that two of its soldiers died in cross border exchange of fire with India.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged the two countries to act with "maximum restraint" and offered to mediate between them.

Kashmir, one of the most militarized regions in the world, has been the source of a long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars and many minor conflicts over the territory.

India has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting "cross-border terrorism," allowing and sheltering terrorist groups on its territory which plan attacks on Indian targets, and fomenting separatist protests in India-administered Kashmir. Islamabad has denied it.