Uri: Prudence or Retribution

                                                                     Map of the Kashmir Region

                                                                     Map of the Kashmir Region

Allegations are once again being leveled against Pakistan for continuing to support militant terrorist organizations, which most recently have been involved in an attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir. This army base located in Uri, near the line of Control between Pakistan and India, was ambushed by four militants during the early morning hours and managed to kill 18 Indian soldiers and wounded several others.

India’s director general of military operations, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, stated that the attackers were “foreign terrorists” and were found with items that “carried Pakistani markings.” Singh went on to state that initial investigations point to Jaish-e-Muhammad who are also believed to have been behind the attack on Pathankot air force base in January. Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh stated that there would be a “befitting reply” to those involved in this act of aggression. Specifically, he stated that India “reserve[s] the right to respond to any act of the adversary at a time and place of our own choosing." Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Raheel Sharif responded to Indian officials stating that Pakistan was “fully prepared to respond to the entire spectrum of direct and indirect threats.”

In response to this attack, PM Narendra Modi called for a meeting at his official residence with military advisers and national security officials. In a series of tweets, Modi went on to say that "I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished." These comments were also echoed by India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh who called Pakistan a “terrorist state”. He stated that he was “deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups.” Pakistan’s Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to PM Nawaz Sharif, Sartaj Aziz, responded that “Pakistan categorically rejects the baseless and irresponsible accusations being leveled” by Indian officials. Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, also firmly rejected allegations that Pakistan was involved in the attack on Uri.

Yet, an increase in harsh rhetoric and an escalation in hostilities is no longer sufficient. PM Modi is facing a backlash from his domestic base that are demanding a response against Pakistan. The PEW research center in a recent report stated that, “more than half of BJP supporters (54 per cent) and a plurality of Congress party adherents (45 per cent) disapprove of the prime minister’s handling of relations with Pakistan.” The report goes on to say that the majority of Indians favor a military response in the face of terrorism. If India was to respond militarily it runs the risk of escalating the conflict into full blown war with its nuclear-armed neighbor.

Additionally, it would be beneficial for India to provide proof of Pakistan’s involvement within the attack at Uri. It is still premature to implicate Pakistan but it would be in India’s best interests to lower its rhetoric and conduct a thorough investigation. This Wednesday, PM Nawaz Sharif is headed to the United Nations General Assembly and is expected to discuss the Kashmir issue. India could also use this opportunity to present evidence and the progress of its investigation that may implicate Pakistan. It could also complement this evidence with a clear and comprehensive policy that aims to bring a settlement with the people of Kashmir who continue to protest against Indian security forces. Delhi can no longer hope for this issue to remain domestic rather than international. It must face this facet of the issue head on.

India would also benefit from pursuing a policy of restraint within Kashmir. A recent CNN article has reported, “85 people have been killed in the past 72 days in clashes between protesters and security forces.” Through India’s growing economic significance, it has surpassed Pakistan and has signed strategic agreements with the United States. Myra Macdonald, commenting on the statements coming from the United States and United Kingdom, stated that “both countries realize there is very little hope of Pakistan giving up its support for militant groups... The US and the UK have seen so much double-dealing by Pakistan in Afghanistan that they are now far more sympathetic to the Indian position.” India must strengthen this position by continuing to remain on the moral high ground.

A security analyst in Islamabad, Amir Rana, commented to the Washington Post that “this single attack and this single day has tilted the balance in favor of India...earlier it was all talk about Indian human rights violations. Now it will be overshadowed by terrorism.” He went onto say that Sharif no longer has “the confidence he had before the attack. This has weakened Pakistan’s moral and diplomatic position.”

Furthermore, experts say that a conflict with Pakistan would deter investors and international business from India and cause trouble for India in both domestic and international markets. The political instability created within the markets would most likely damage the Indian economy and runs the possible risk of harming future economic progress. India would be better off spending its energy on further increasing its economic power. If Modi was to pursue a hawkish strategy he runs the risk of unraveling the progress his platform of economic growth has brought to India. It is not difficult to assume that war would not encourage continued foreign direct investment.

India needs to ignore the hawks in Delhi, focus on economic growth, pursue a policy of reconciliation rather than aggression against dissatisfied Kashmiris, and continue to pursue the status quo that has allowed India to become an ever-stronger global player.