India moved on Monday to diplomatically isolate Pakistan as part of retaliation to a militant attack on an army base in Kashmir, but the plan appeared set to run into a wall of resistance from a defiant Islamabad.
After a two-hour meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some of his top ministers decided against any “knee-jerk reaction” and, instead, backed moves to present evidence of Pakistan’s “complicity” at global fora.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj was absent from the meeting to draft a response to Sunday’s attack that saw heavily armed militants sneak into the base in Uri and kill 18 soldiers before security forces shot them.
The head of military operations of the Indian army, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, said India had the desired capability to respond, without elaborating.
“We reserve the right to respond to any act of the adversary at a time and place of our own choosing,” Singh told reporters.
While India weighed its options, Pakistan seemed readying to pre-empt the diplomatic offensive.
In signs of estrangement, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wrote letters to the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – about “grave human rights violations” in Kashmir by Indian forces.
Islamabad made no offer of cooperation to investigate the Uri attack, as was done by it in the aftermath of a similar deadly raid on an air base in Punjab in January. The only civilian Pakistani leader to respond – foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz – did not even condemn the attack.
Aziz dwelt more on the situation in Kashmir, especially the unrest triggered by the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
Its army chief Raheel Sharif hit out at India’s “hostile narrative”, saying his country was “fully prepared to respond to entire spectrum of direct and indirect threat”.
At a session of the UN human rights council in Geneva on Monday, India asked Pakistan to stop supporting “violence and terrorism” and vacate its “illegal occupation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. New Delhi also brought up alleged human rights violations in Balochistan the persecution of minorities, including Hindus.
As calls grew for a counter-strike against Pakistan and militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, which India believes orchestrated the attack, New Delhi also decided to push for more “terror elements” based there to be brought under UN sanctions.
Foreign minister Swaraj will also bring up the attack at United Nations general assembly later next week.
Although New Delhi’s options to hit back at nuclear-armed Pakistan appeared limited, government sources said a “strong message” to Pakistan could include surgical strikes against “inimical assets” along their de-facto border.
Granting political asylum to exiled Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti, who spearheads a campaign for independence from Pakistan, is also being considered.
“The action has to be taken without getting influenced by emotions, anger. It has to be taken coolly and with proper planning,” VK Singh, junior foreign minister said.
Past attempts by India to bring Pakistani elements under the sanctions regime has so far been unsuccessful, because of opposition from China, among others.
China said on Monday it was “shocked” by the attack on the Uri base. It also expressed concern over the escalation of violence in Kashmir. France also referred to “the disputes in the region of Kashmir”.
India bristles at any mention by other countries of its territorial dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
(With agency inputs)