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Aftermath of Uri Attack and the Way Forward

Army soldiers search for suspected attackers after a gunbattle in Mohra in Jammu and Kashmir's Uri (Reuters photo)
Uri Attack, Kashmir, Burhan Wani, LOC, IoK

On Sunday morning at around 4 am, four armed guerilla fighters attacked Indian Army’s 12th Brigade headquarters at Uri in Baramulla district. According to the Indian army spokesperson, 17 soldiers were killed while anothers 19 were injured. This is one of the deadliest attacks on the Indian Army in Indian-occupied Kashmir in recent years.

The attack comes at a time when tensions in Indian Occupied Kashmir have been soaring high. Since the assassination of Kashmiri rebel leader and youth icon Burhan Wani in July 2016, the valley routinely erupts in protests and conflict. The news of his death was met with massive protests in IoK and the Indian forces responded with brutality. The crackdown against protesting civilians resulted in the death of more than 90 innocent and unarmed Kashmiris, mostly teenagers. Thousands more have been wounded; some maimed for life.

The Indian government’s response to this guerilla attack has been the usual kneejerk reaction. India’s Home Affairs Minister, Rajnath Singh, has called Pakistan a “terrorist state which must be isolated”, but stopped short in blaming the country for the attack. Singh added he was “deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support for terrorism and terrorist groups”. However, he did not offer any facts to support his assertion. He also postponed his visits to Russia and United States after this attack.

The Indian DGMO, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh called upon his counterpart in Pakistan to express “serious concerns” over “Pakistani marking found on the weapons used by the attackers.” He also promised a “befitting response” to the evil designs of the adversary.

The Indian army said that it reserves the right to respond to any “cross border terror attack” at “the time and place of (their) own choosing”. Prime Minister Modi also reiterated that the attack will not go unpunished.

The Indian media commentators called for a military response with some Indian analysts even calling for a nuclear strike against Pakistan. Such kind of war mongering is not new for Indian media, which routinely blames Pakistan for any attack even before it is over.

Indian Options After Uri Attack:

The Indian government has been asserting that it will give a “befitting reply” ( should be response) to the perpetrators of the attack referring to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed whom they accuse of carrying out the deadly attack. A deeper assessment of this “befitting reply” leads us to the domains of diplomacy, economics and the military spectrum.

India has an option to launch a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan by using the ongoing United Nations General Assembly Session to introduce a resolution condemning cross-border attacks, and labeling Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism. India can also send envoys to major world capitals to garner support against Pakistan. However, Pakistan has already launched a diplomatic offensive of its own against India in UNGA over the Indian atrocities commited in Kashmir. India is under immense pressure due to Pakistan’s consistent effort to “internationalize” Kashmir dispute which India considers its internal matter and wants to solve bilaterally. The time is not ripe for India to launch a diplomatic offensive over Uri attack since it will be detrimental for India’s hold and brutality in Kashmir.

India can also respond by suspending all trade ties with Pakistan. According to 2015 figures, the direct trade between Pakistan and India was a mere $2.3 billion annually. The suspension of trade will not have dire consequences for Pakistan but it will aggravate the economic hardships for Kashmiris as they use the Line of Control for trade and cross-LOC movement. This will also increase resentment among the Kashmiris for Indian policies in IoK.

The third option  recommended by war mongers in India is to carry out  surgical strikes in Pakistan, targeting against the camps and leaders of Lasher-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. However, experts believe that such an option is not viable at all since surgical strikes in Pakistan could lead to a fully fledged nuclear war between the two states. Pakistan has already made its intention clear that it will not shy away from using nuclear weapons in case of hostility between the two countries. Many experts also feel that the window of opportunity  for a strike is shrinking by each passing hour as the international community’s pressure on India not to commit such a folly is increasing.

Pakistan’s response to potential indian threats:

The accusatory statements by Indian government officials against Pakistan in the wake of the Uri attack have not gone unnoticed. Pakistan’s foreign office has denied any direct or indirect involvement in the Uri attack and demanded concrete evidence from India to prove its allegations. A Core Commanders Conference was also held in Rawalpindi in which the readiness of military formations and strategic assets was viewed.

The statement by Indian Army that it will respond at “the time and place of (their) own choosing” after the Uri attack has raised concerns in the Pakistani security apparatus. Pakistan has alerted its troops at the LOC in view of possible cross-LOC shelling by India. However, many security experts in Pakistan believe that India might use its terrorists proxies-such as the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan- to attack civilian and military targets. Ajit Doval’s doctrine of using proxies against Pakistan is already clear. So an attack against soft targets, like the Quetta attack on the lawyers community or the mosque bombing in FATA is a possibility in the near future.

The way forward:

Pakistan has always maintained a principled stance that the Kashmir dispute must be resolved according to the UN Resolutions. Pakistan is willing to abide by these Resolutions and has never shied away from fulfilling its responsibilities. India on the other hand has refused to respect the right of self determination of the Kashmiris and usually relies upon brutal force to suppress their free will.

The recent unrest in Kasmir began after the assassination of Kashmiri rebel leader Burhan Wani by the Indian security forces.  Wani’s death was followed by massive protests against the atrocities of “Indian Occupying Forces” in Kashmir. Instead of finding a peaceful solution to the problem, the Indian government imposed curfew, used excessive force against stone pelting protesters and has killed more than 90 unarmed civilians so far. India has also resorted to the use of ‘pellet guns’ which has blinded tens of Kashmiri protesters. Amnesty International and UNHRC have strongly condemned the killing of protesters and the use of pellet guns.

The recent attack in Uri against Indian Occupying Forces has provided India with an excuse to continue to suppress the will of the Kashmiri people. India is now using this attack to divert the attention of the international community away from its human rights violations and brutal oppression.

It is in the best interest of India to stop the human rights violations in Kashmir. It must accept that Kashmir is not the part of the Indian state but a disputed territory. As per the Simla Agreement, India must facilitate meaningful dialogue to resolve the issue of Kashmir thus ending the suffering of the common Kashmiri and resolving conflict in the region.

India should also end the tradition of blaming Pakistan for every attack against its military and civilian targets without providing evidence. It should not escalate tensions between the two nuclear powers by giving hostile statements and must stop the use of proxies against Pakistan. This is the only way  forward to a peaceful South Asia.

Zeeshan Munir

has done LLM in International Law from the International Islamic University, Islamabad

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