Responding to Uri

Gathering evidence regarding the four terrorists who stormed the army base in Uri, killing 18 soldiers, suggests they are from Pakistan and had been sent across the border explicitly for this attack. In fact, the entire operation has the fingerprints of Pakistan’s military establishment, showing yet again the country’s persistent use of terrorism as state policy. The four terrorists reportedly got to the camp early in the morning, in all probability across the Line of Control just 6 km away. The terrorists carried automatic rifles, under-barrel grenade launchers and other equipment, most of it with Pakistani markings, according to Director General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh. Over the last three decades or so, India has been at the receiving end of Pakistani statecraft of terrorists unleashed to attain state objectives; Uri is the latest provocation. India has limited manoeuvrability as far as a military response goes. Narendra Modi’s restrained, but firm, response is an indication that India may not play the reckless game many would like it to. Condemning the “cowardly” attack, he said those behind it would not go unpunished — the heavy-lifting will in all probability be done diplomatically.

In responses in New Delhi, and on the ground in Kashmir, one thing has emerged: that India still does not have a comprehensive national policy to deal with domestic militancy as well as cross-border terrorism. Given India’s inconsistent and incomplete responses, the adversaries, both states and terror organisations, are able to exploit, and often poke fun at, the lack of a robust national doctrine. The latest attack also captures the complex reality of India-Pakistan ties and the Kashmir issue. It calls for an alert security grid and sophisticated policy responses; neither can be achieved by rhetoric and simplistic blame games. The Indian security forces have been dealing with militancy and cross-border infiltration since Kashmir went up in flames in the late 1980s. The gradual decline in violence in the Valley over the years was reversed starting 2014, and since then strife in the Valley and infiltration from the Pakistan side have both steadily climbed. The Prime Minister should take the lead to bring together leaders across the spectrum to work towards finding peace, while drawing up a national security doctrine that is free of biases and myopia. India needs to let its adversaries know it is a power capable of more than mere rhetoric — while assuring its own people that its options are rooted in constitutional values. For both, a well-documented national security doctrine could be a first step.

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