Uri terror attack: The deadliest attack on the Indian Army in the last few years has left the country shell-shocked and the Modi government has promised the perpetrators would not be spared. While some in the government and the ruling party are calling for a ‘cold, calculated response’, others have called Pakistan a terrorist state. Seventeen soldiers were martyred in the attack on the Indian Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri and nineteen security personnel are injured, some of them critically. The four terrorists who attacked the camp have been neutralised, but calls are growing louder for India to give a befitting and punishing reply to Pakistan’s provocation and terrorist activities.
Defence experts see a very high possibility of India going for the option of a strong military response. According to Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), India can look at a four-pronged strategy. “First, hit to hurt Pakistan. Without crossing the Line of Control (LoC), Indian Army should hit out using artillery guns, fighter jets, attack helicopters, special forces and Border Action Teams or BATs. The fighter jets should stay on the Indian side only,” Kanwal tells FE Online.
“Secondly, India should look at covert operations to take out terrorists that India is after and Pakistan is refusing to try. Thirdly, one can continue engaging in negotiations with the elected Pakistani government and look to reduce the influence of Pakistan’s Army,” he says. Lastly, Kanwal feels that India should isolate the Pakistan Army internationally. “Have it (Pakistan Army) declared as a terrorist army, and get international sanctions imposed on it. All of these above responses should be in a calibrated manner so that the situation does not escalate into a full-scale war,” he advises.
Says, Abhijnan Rej, Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, “I believe that after the Uri terror attack, there is a very high chance of a military retaliation from India, However, that doesn’t mean war. There can be a varying degree of response from India.”
Elaborating on three options, Abhijnan Rej tells FE Online, “Firstly, and this one is the most likely, India may attack the forward posts across the LoC to send a message to Pakistan. This is a low-risk option, since you are not crossing the LoC. Symbolically along with this artillery fire, India may also go for some air strikes in PoK to placate the domestic audience. Secondly, India can also exercise the option of limited air strikes on the areas where you militants are situated. This would be a short operation, however, this is less likely since India would not have the hard intelligence to know the exact location of the terrorist outfits.” “Thirdly, you can look at a response similar to the Operation Parakram. This would involve integrated battle groups crossing the LoC. They need not go in too deep, move in a shallow way and hold positions there. This can be a very provocative option though, since one has to be careful of not crossing Pakistan’s ‘nuclear red line’,” Rej says.
“All these strategies can be spoken of, but at the end what matters is a clear political objective. The idea is to compel Pakistan to not indulge in attacks such as Uri. For that you have to hurt them and cause pain. But that is tough without crossing the nuclear red line. India has always been very cautious of that. I also believe that Pakistan is not an irrational state, and it would not use the nuclear option, unless it feels that its very existence is under threat,” he concludes.
Lt Gen (Retd) B S Jaswal believes that India must keep its military options open. “Bring pickets, which have launch pad to the ground, raze them to the ground. The reason is that till the time it does not hurt Pakistan physically, they would not our decency,” Jaswal, who was GOC-in-C of the Northern Command told PTI.
Major (Retd) Gaurav Arya, who is an expert in the Jammu and Kashmir security situation feels that Pakistan keeps attacking with terrorist strikes, knowing that India will not take any action. “The problems in Kashmir are systematically manufactured at the GHQ in Rawalpindi,” he told PTI, adding that India must take immediate action. “Stop trade with Pakistan, downgrade (its) Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. The world must know we are serious,” he said.