The Uri suicide attack that left 17 soldiers dead deals a body blow to the already frayed India-Pakistan ties, with the government under pressure for a robust response to one of the deadliest strike on an army base in Kashmir.
“I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after Sunday’s early morning raid that is being blamed on Pakistan.
In the run-up to the 2014 election, Modi’s BJP had promised an aggressive stance against Pakistan. With five state elections due early next year, the government can’t appear to be passive against the neighbour.
The immediate impact could be on three events – this week’s UN general assembly (UNGA), November’s Saarc meet and the Heart of Asia conference in December, former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh said.
“This incident should lead to greater isolation of Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism… At the UNGA, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wouldn’t get away with blaming India on Kashmir,” he said.
At the UN, the two countries are expected to raise the alleged rights violations in Kashmir and Balochistan.
“The government will not be found wanting in its response to show Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism,” a source said.
India hasn’t confirmed if Modi will travel to Pakistan for the South Asian Association for Regional Conference summit. There is no clarity on who Islamabad will send to the Heart of Asia ministerial meeting in Amritsar during which peace effort and reconstruction of Afghanistan would be discussed.
India and Afghanistan coming together to blame Pakistan for terrorism didn’t augur well for Islamabad, Mansingh said.
The attack on the army camp close to the Line of Control comes at a time when India is using every global forum to expose Pakistan for pursuing terrorism as an instrument of state policy and fomenting trouble in Kashmir, where street protests are in their third month.
“I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups,” home minister Rajnath Singh said in a tweet, signaling further hardening of stand. He then called for isolating the “terrorist state” Pakistan.
But, India’s choices are limited.
“If India retaliates across LOC it gets internationalised if not exposes GOI’s hollow rhetoric,” former diplomat KC Singh tweeted.
“Inept domestic handling of Kashmir situation and the domestic dynamics in Pakistan” made the situation complex, he told HT.
The Uri assault, one in a series of strikes under Modi’s watch, raised uncomfortable questions about Modi’s leadership and vision to combat the scourge of Pakistan-orchestrated terrorism, strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney said. “Modi’s response to the Uri attack could help shape his political legacy”.