The audacious attack on an army base in Uri will push India-Pakistan relations that are already under strain from a similar strike on an airbase in Punjab earlier this year. New Delhi is under pressure to respond robustly. The airbase raid offered hopes the two sides might handle the fallout of such attacks in mature, constructive ways. But the steady collapse in their ties, marked by reciprocal sniping on Kashmir and Balochistan, has soured the mood. Several Indian leaders now suggest a tough response to the Uri attack .
Here are the options before India:
Surgical Strike: A covert strike on terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). But India might run the risk of a full-fledged war with a nuclear state.
Hot pursuit: After 18 soldiers were killed in an ambush in Manipur in June 2015, Indian forces went across the border into Myanmar and neutralised them. This option was mooted against Pakistan-backed militants but never exercised. Pakistan is a different kettle of fish to Myanmar though.
Diplomacy: Isolate Pakistan internationally to force it to abjure terrorism as an instrument of state policy. India has pursued this line for decades without much success. Now that terrorism has emerged as a global threat, India has more diplomatic leverage.
Bilateral talks: Engage the civilian leadership in Pakistan. This, however, goes against New Delhi’s stated line that terror and talks can’t go together.
Back-channel talks: Engage the Pakistani Army, which controls the levers of power, through back-channels. But their interest in peace is suspect.
War of attrition: Scale up the offensive over Balochistan. Make Pakistan pay for its interference in Jammu and Kashmir and hope that it sees reason in stopping terror exports across the border. But this approach can backfire and strengthen anti-India elements among state and non-state actors in Pakistan.
Aggressive posturing: Move forces to the border in an eyeball-to-eyeball deployment on the lines of ‘Operation Parakram’ launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government after the terror attack on Parliament in 2001. Close Indian skies to Pakistani flights, recall Indian high commissioner in Islamabad and scale down Pakistani mission in New Delhi. This move might help the NDA government on the domestic front but may not be of any help in the long run.