The Indian Army suffered one of its biggest casualties in recent memory as 17 soldiers were killed and more than 30 injured during an attack on an army camp in Uri. At around 4am, a group of four militants snuck into the fortified complex near the Line of Control in Kashmir’s Baramulla district and began firing and lobbing grenades. Most of the 17 soldiers killed were burnt alive when their tents caught fire in a volley of grenades, according to army officials. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has blamed Pakistan for the attack. "I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan's continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups. Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such," he tweeted. Islamabad, meanwhile, has categorically rejected Singh’s allegations. The last time the Indian Army suffered such casualties was when militants attacked an army camp in Kaluchak, near Jammu, in May 2002. During that horrific attack, 31 people were killed. Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, the Director General of Military Operations, has told the press that the perpetrators of Sunday’s attack belonged to the terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)—responsible for the siege on an Indian airforce base in Pathankot earlier this year. On Sunday, all four of them were killed by security forces. This attack comes amidst increasing violence in Kashmir, as the state grapples with mass protests.
Pakistan has been long known to harbour the likes of Lashkar-e-Taiba (responsible for the 26/11 attack) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. Legal proceedings against JeM Chief Masood Azhar and top LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi for the Pathankot siege and the 26/11 attack respectively have moved at a glacial pace. Slow legal proceedings and Pakistan’s lack of cooperation in investigating terror attacks on Indian soil has exacerbated the trust deficit. It is imperative to examine the role played by the Pakistani government and its military-intelligence establishment in fomenting trouble in Kashmir. Successive governments out of Islamabad, in collusion with the armed forces and the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), have actively supported these violent elements and used them to pursue strategic aims in Kashmir, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia. Predictably, such troubled elements have made their presence felt back home and wreaked havoc. Despite reports of a crackdown at home, many are still unsure whether this double game will subside. Hussain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US, has written extensively on the subject. “The state is willing to crush jihadi groups that engage in violence against Pakistani citizens and security personnel but has no qualms about the mobilisation of jihadis that target other countries, particularly India, Afghanistan, and even the United States,” Haqqani wrote in a recent column. “The problem with this policy has been that jihadi groups do not make the distinctions made by the government and often collaborate with each other on the ground.”
Earlier this year, a senior minister in Pakistan’s Punjab province made a startling assertion along similar lines. In an interview to BBC Urdu, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the government cannot take legal action against militant groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as the “state itself remained involved” with them. This is not news to India, but merely another confirmation of long-held suspicions. Despite these assertions, there isn’t much India can achieve without concrete legal action against the accused and support from the international community. In the past decade, American officials have sought to pressure Pakistan into denying safe havens for terror outfits. But that has not created the requisite incentive for Pakistan to give up its terror apparatus, especially with China in its corner. Ever since Beijing decided to block UN sanctions against Pathankot attack mastermind Masood Azhar, there has been a growing feeling in New Delhi that Beijing's policies are driven by a malicious desire to undermine India’s security. China has decided to ally with Pakistan to further their economic and security interests in the region, as argued in these columns. India must find a way to drag China away from its foreign policy misadventure in Pakistan.
Terrorists and their backers in the Pakistani state establishment use the recent unrest in Kashmir and militant attacks on Indian military installations to maintain hostilities between both nations. Analysts in India have argued that the Pakistani civilian leadership has been seeking to end support for terror outfits in the Kashmir Valley. However, they claim that the Pakistani military leadership in Rawalpindi does not support that strategy. Rawalpindi believes that escalating violence will increase pressure on India and force it to react, which, in turn, will compel the UN to intervene. Even the civilian leadership under the Nawaz Sharif has changed its tone following reports that its domestic position has grown tenuous. There has been a marked change in New Delhi's reaction to Pakistan from Pathankot to Uri. Bilateral relations have gone from bad to worse during the past year, culminating in Pakistan bringing up Kashmir during its Independence Day celebrations only for Modi to raise Balochistan as retaliation. This attack has also brought home fears that there are serious deficiencies with the security of India’s military installations. It is the second time this year that a sensitive Indian military base has been breached. The loss of as many as 17 soldiers is unacceptable. It is a massive strategic failure and one could argue that the lessons of Pathankot have not been learned. Instead of inciting nationalistic passions, both the Indian civilian and military leadership need to take stock of these deficiencies and fortify our bases better. Kashmir, meanwhile, will continue to burn. There is no way New Delhi will look away and entertain the possibility of engaging Pakistan in a dialogue process without the intervention of the international community. In fact, there are fears that the Uri attack could foment a “war-like situation” in the region. Yet again, it seems as if any hope for a resolution has been scuttled.