India once again slammed Pakistan on Sunday after a terror attack on an Indian Army base in Kashmir claimed lives of 19 soldiers.
Another 30 Indian soldiers received serious injuries when terrorists targeted the Army administrative base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri sector near the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan. Describing the incident as one of the most deadly attacks in Kashmir in recent times, the Indian Army said in a statement that five commando-style gunmen, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, burst into the brigade headquarters in Uri at 5:30am (on Sunday Indian Time) and attacked barracks and tents where soldiers were sleeping. One militant had reportedly blown himself up inside the brigade headquarters. They also lobbed several grenades within minutes and one of those triggered a blast in a diesel dump. Till 5:45am, three militants were killed in ensuing fire-fight. However, gun-battle continued till 7:30am, as terrorists were using incendiary ammunition and small arms, setting ablaze tents and temporary shelters at the strategic military base. After a three-hour-long battle, all the four terrorists were gunned down. The Army tweeted at 10:52am that 19 Indian soldiers also attained martyrdom.
Later, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh confirmed that Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) was behind the attack, as evidences gathered at the scene indicated that the attackers were foreigners and they were carrying “items with Pak markings”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the “cowardly terror attack”, saying: “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished.” The PM’s assertion on the attack has triggered speculation on India’s options, as a section of the country’s defence establishment has advised the Modi administration to launch covert military strikes inside the Pakistani territory to destroy terror camps nurtured by Islamabad. Even, the Indian Army, which wants to turn the heat on Pakistan, has urged PM Modi to consider cross-border strikes. The Army believes that a swift, surgical strike on terror camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) is the only option to destroy those camps near the Indian border.
However, defence experts cautioned New Delhi against consequences and the damages that an escalation could pose, if it goes out of hand. In that case, India might run the risk of a full-fledged war with a nuclear state.
Foreign policy experts are of the opinion that knee jerk reactions are the worst in this kind of conflict situation. According to experts, the responses have to be thought through for strategic advantage rather than tactical satisfaction and ego. Senior Indian journalist and columnist Prem Shankar Jha has said that India’s response must not be to resort to a punitive counterattack. He has advised PM Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh to think about Pakistan’s objectives and take the action that is needed to checkmate the neighbour.
As Islamabad has developed the habit of blaming India for “doing propaganda against Pakistan” in an attempt to hide its home-grown terrorists, experts have advised PM Modi to expose Pakistan’s double speak and hypocrisy on the Kashmir issue through calculative measures.
India can also try to engage the civilian leadership in Pakistan in the bilateral peace process, but the move goes against New Delhi’s stated line that terror and talks can’t go together. Another option is to engage the Pakistani Army, which controls the levels of power, through back channels. However, this move may not help India resolve the issue as the Pak Army’s interest in peace is suspect. The third option is to scale up the offensive over Balochistan and make Pakistan pay for its interference in Kashmir. But, this move might strengthen anti-India elements in Pakistan.
According to foreign policy experts, the ideal step for Modi government will be to try to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and strategically. They have asked New Delhi to urge the international community to impose economic sanction on Pakistan for harbouring terror. Now that terrorism has emerged as a global threat, India will have more diplomatic leverage (if it pursues this line).
Interestingly, Pakistan, with blood on its hand, heads to the UN to talk ‘Kashmir”. Perhaps, Islamabad has ignored the fact that the Uri strike will certainly weaken Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s case at the UN General Assembly.