Wed, Sep 21, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Modi faces pressure to hit Pakistan over fatal attack


An Indian Army band leads a funeral procession for Gangadhar Dalai — a soldier killed in an attack in Uri on Sunday — in the village of Jamuna Balia, India, yesterday.

Photo: AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces pressure to launch a military response against suspected terrorist training camps inside Pakistan, after militants killed 18 Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir.

Sunday’s predawn raid on an army camp in the Kashmiri town of Uri was the worst attack against the Indian Army in the restive region in years, prompting Indian Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh to label Pakistan a terrorist state.

After a more measured response of late to Pakistan provocations, analysts said Modi must retaliate in order to avoid a domestic backlash.

“He will respond militarily,” said Deepak Sinha, a retired 30-year veteran of the army who helped train India’s special forces. “There is no other option.”

Modi on Monday met with top ministerial colleagues and the army’s chief, after saying on Twitter on Sunday that “those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished.”

Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar and Indian Army Chief of Staff General Dalbir Singh on Sunday visited the site of terror attacks in Jammu & Kashmir.

A military response from India toward Pakistan, which has denied any involvement, raises the specter of escalating tensions between the nuclear-weapon-armed rivals, who have fought three conflicts since the partition of British India in 1947.

A flaring of their rivalry could dent investor sentiment and further set back faltering efforts to bolster South Asia’s economic integration.

Pakistan has said it “categorically rejects” any involvement in the raid, calling Indian statements of its complicity “vitriolic and unsubstantiated.”

Modi has said the last Indian National Congress government was weak on Pakistan.

“He has to respond. If he doesn’t, he is completely discredited,” Sinha said.

One immediate option before India is launching artillery attacks and covert raids across the so-called “Line of Control,”” the de facto border separating Indian and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir — a Himalayan region claimed by both countries in full.

Likely targets would be camps that Indian observers suggest are used to train and stage militants before they launch attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Sinha said.

“We are coming to a point where India will have no choice, but to inflict some punishment on Pakistan,” former Indian Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh said.

Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London, said that given the high casualty count, India is likely to retaliate across the Line of Control via covert maneuvers.

“There will be voices within the government that will be advocating that,” he said.

The attack in Uri follows an assault in January against India’s Pathankot Air Force Station, which was also blamed on cross-border militants from Pakistan.

“After the previous attack in Pathankot, the Indian government’s response was measured and reasonable,” said Ashok Malik, a fellow with the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

The room for a measured and reasonable response this time “is that much smaller,” Malik added.

Pant said Pakistan was continuing efforts to internationalize the Kashmir issue to gain attention ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, at which Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to speak.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj is also likely to raise the Kashmir attack at the UN meeting, Indian Minister of State for Defense Subhash Bhamre said on Monday in New Delhi.

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