Modi thrashes out response to Uri terror attack
Narendra Modi has vowed to punish those behind the attack in which gunmen hurling grenades stormed a base, killing 17 soldiers in the worst such attack in over a decade. An 18th soldier died in hospital on Monday.
The Hindu nationalist prime minister promised during his election campaign to take a hard line over Kashmir and has faced calls from army veterans and even some in his own party for military action against Pakistan.
On Monday he summoned his national security advisers and military leaders to formulate a response, which media reports said could include air strikes on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir.
But security experts say India lacks the military capabilities to take on Pakistan in the divided Himalayan region, already tense after weeks of violent clashes between police and demonstrators protesting at Indian rule.
“It’s not like the US conducting air strikes in Syria to tackle ISIS that’s hundreds of miles away from home ground, Pakistan is next door,” said Ajai Sahni, executive director at the Institute of Conflict Management think-tank in Delhi.
“India knows it can’t sustain a 15-day war against Pakistan and Pakistan knows it can’t sustain a similar war against India.”
Local media also urged caution, with the Indian Express saying calls for military action were “easier made than acted upon”.
On Sunday Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh accused Pakistan of “continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups” and called for it to be internationally isolated.
I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 18, 2016
Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such. — Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 18, 2016
As the war of words intensified on Monday, Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif said his forces were “fully prepared to respond to entire spectrum of direct and indirect threat”.
Islamabad meanwhile accused New Delhi of trying to deflect attention from weeks of unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir with what it called “vitriolic and unsubstantiated statements”.
“It is a blatant attempt on India’s part to deflect attention from the fast deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the Indian-occupied Kashmir since the death of Burhan Wani,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Sunday’s attack followed weeks of protests sparked by the killing of the popular separatist leader in a gunfight with security forces.
At least 87 civilians have been killed and thousands injured in clashes between protesters and security forces, the worst unrest to hit Kashmir since 2010.
On Monday more than 50 people were injured when security forces fired tear gas and pellet guns at protesters who defied a curfew in southern Kashmir, according to local police.
Sunday’s attack was one of the bloodiest on soldiers since an armed rebellion against Indian rule erupted in 1989. Militants killed 30 soldiers and their families in a suicide attack in Kaluchak in the Himalayan region in 2002.
Separatist groups which have been fighting Indian troops in Kashmir since 1989 seek either independence for the region or its merger with Pakistan.
Soldiers have been deployed in the territory for decades and currently number around 500,000. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.