Kashmir attack, careful action must

Kashmir attack, careful action must

The terrorist attack on a military camp in Uri, close to the Line of Control with Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, on Sunday morning poses yet another challenge to India. It has the potential to create a major crisis, even a flashpoint, in the relations between India and Pakistan. The attack led to the death of 18 soldiers and injuries to many others. It is among the worst ever attacks on the armed forces in peace time. There is hardly a doubt that the attack came from the other side of the border much like the attack on the Pathankot airbase earlier this year. The army has named the agency behind the attack as Jaish-e-Mohammad. It is likely that it had official support from Pakistan in some way. But Pakistan has denied the charge and as usual, asked for actionable intelligence.

It may be assumed that the attack was intended to provoke a strong Indian response within Kashmir or across the border. India will need to plan the right response, fully considering the merits and demerits and consequences of its response. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the perpetrators of the attack will not go unpunished and Home Minister Rajnath Singh has mentioned Pakistan by name. A senior BJP leader has said that India should adopt a jaw-for-a-tooth policy on Pakistan. While it is not easy to formulate the right response in an emotionally charged atmosphere with even the public opinion clamouring for the strong-est action and punishment, it’s not very difficult to identify the wrong responses. A military response is the easiest to think of in the form of escalating hostilities on the border and even launching strikes on terrorist camps or other relevant targets in PoK or Pakistan. But the very purpose of terrorist strikes could be to draw India into such situations which will lead to a conflagration that can go beyond control.

There may be a temptation to go in for a confrontational measure involving military action
which will suit a hawkish policy on Pakistan and terrorism. It may seem to be politically rewarding too. It can also be expected to divert attention from the ongoing trouble in Kashmir. But a knee-jerk response, without a careful assessment of consequences, should be avoided. A confrontation with Pakistan will also not calm the situation in Kashmir but may aggravate it. It has been difficult to find the right mix of offence and deterrence, and amiability and confrontation, in a policy on Pakistan. India has hard choices but should go in for a mature and studied response which will promote its cause and interests in a high stakes situation.
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