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A reality check on India’s options after Uri attack

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In the worst attack since the Pathankot airbase attack, at least 17 Army soldiers were killed in Uri area of Baramulla district on Sunday morning. Ministers, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and MoS Defence Subhash Bhamre, have already indicated they have proof that the attack was launched by groups from Pakistan, including the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and accused the Pakistan's Army of supporting their infiltration.

As the government weighs its options against, here is a reality check of what they are:

1. Diplomatic

- Issue stern statements to Pakistan, demarches demanding a thorough investigation

- Downgrade relations with Pakistan, recall Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad

- Send envoys to major world capitals, gathering support for action against Pakistan for sheltering Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba amongst other terror groups

- Use the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session to introduce a resolution condemning cross border terror

- Raise support to Balochistan freedom movement, raise human rights violations by Pakistan

Reality Check: The first few options have been tried before, such as after the Parliament attack in 2001. The truth is diplomatic pressure works only when India and Pakistan have talks ongoing that are making progress. At present, talks have been called off and there is no dialogue process.

In terms of the international galvanisation, India can make some headway, given the worldwide intolerance for terrorism, fear of Islamist radicals and ISIS spreading, as well as general mistrust of Pakistani actions due to Afghanistan. Even so, it is a long and tough haul, and given the difficulties India has had with moving the U.N. on the Comprehensive Convention on International terrorism, doesn’t augur much immediate hope.

Appealing to the international community also brings with it the danger of “internationalising” the Kashmir dispute, which India has been trying to resolve internally and bilaterally. The Balochistan card will only work, say experts, if India is consistent and serious about supporting the groups, which could also bring international censure, given the U.S. maintains it supports Pakistan's claim on Balochistan.

2. Economic

- Snap all trade ties with Pakistan, suspending transactions across Wagah and Uri

- Ban all Pakistani imports to India

- Appeal to other countries to reduce economic activity with Pakistan

- Ask U.N. to impose sanctions against Pakistan

Reality Check: At present India and Pakistan have a fairly small direct formal trade of $2.3 billion (Informal trade is about $4.7 bn). Breaking off ties will affect the people of Kashmir the most, as they use the Line of Control (LoC) for fruit trade. The sanctions process will require a U.N. Security Council resolution, and that will most definitely be blocked by China, which has also blocked terror sanctions of even LeT/JeM entities like Lakhvi and Masood Azhar

3. Military (overt and covert)

- Increase patrolling and scale of fire at LoC

- Strikes on terrorist camp targets in PoK - fighter jet

- Selected targeting of terror chiefs: Syed Salahuddin (Hizbul Mujahideen), Hafiz Saeed (LeT) and Masood Azhar (JeM)

Reality Check: While the clamour for a military strike post Uri is high, India's armed forces have several considerations to make. Uri is no doubt the worst attack on security forces in terms of casualties, but it is one of more than 20 such attacks on security force bases in Jammu and Kashmir in the past few years (Tangdhar, Maheshwar, Uri 2014, Kathua, Pathankot to name a few), and more foiled attempts and infiltration.

Many experts also feel that the “window” for a strike visibly shrinks with each passing hour after an attack, as the international community begins to exert pressure to India to show restraint. A military operation of any kind will no doubt lead to counter strikes from Pakistan, whose military is already under pressure, and drumming up the “threat perception” from India.

India will need to be clear about having clear targets and coordinates of terror camps and terror leaders, as any civilian casualties will spark further repercussions.

Finally a thorough investigation of all the security lapses that led to the Uri attack, infiltration routes, as well as defence preparedness would need to be studied in order to secure against future strikes.

It is for this reason that in the only official statement made on India's options so far, General V.K. Singh said on Monday that, “Having seen the Army closely, I feel, it needs to be analysed as to what happened there...It needs to be investigated how the incident took place and what were the lacunas,” the Minister of State for External Affairs said, adding “...from the Army's side, alertness is required. The Kashmir situation needs to be thought about. The action has to be taken without getting influenced by emotions, anger. It has to be taken coolly and with proper planning.”

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