The attack on the Army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on 18 September, by terrorists of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)—a Pakistan-sponsored, funded and nurtured outfit—has incensed the people and triggered public outrage. Despite the delay in responding and prospect of an overt military strike having receded, there is little doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will be compelled to inflict a heavy cost on Pakistan. An important factor will be the public anger and sharp questions being raised even by the BJP’s hard core constituency.
The attack on the military camp at Uri where 18 soldiers were killed is an escalation in Pakistan’s policy of waging a low-cost campaign of terrorist strikes against India. Pakistan is now apparently focusing on striking at military and security installations to further raise costs for India. In January this year, there was a similar attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot where too advance intelligence had been received of an imminent strike. In both cases, there is adequate incontrovertible evidence that the terrorists came from Pakistan. But the terrorist attacks were not isolated events. Emboldened after China designated it as its “only friend and ally”, Pakistan has since early last year been trying to stoke unrest in Kashmir and pumped in an estimated Rs 350 crore to fund the separatist elements and mosques. The terrorist actions were choreographed in this backdrop to excite further unrest. More such terrorist strikes can be expected.
In the case of the recent attack at Uri, reports state that at least one foreign power and an Indian intelligence agency had warned on 15 September, that a terrorist strike was imminent. The latter identified that the terrorist attack was being executed by the JeM. Obviously these agencies have the requisite electronic and signals data indicating the route taken by the terrorists, guidance received from their controllers and from where they started, thus again confirming Pakistan’s direct involvement, as at the time of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
Very unusually, on 20 September, Pakistan’s newspaper Dawn published a letter by some retired senior Pakistani bureaucrats including a former ISI chief and ambassador to the US, Major General Mahmud Durrani, which suggested a welcome willingness—despite its obvious carefully guarded wording—by senior echelons of the Pakistani establishment to at least begin to tentatively acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that the Pakistani state uses terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The letter inherently contradicts assertions by Pakistani interlocutors that Pakistan no longer has any truck with terrorist outfits.
Neither does Pakistan try to conceal the presence of individuals designated internationally as terrorists like Masood Azhar of the JeM, Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Syed Salahuddin of Hizb-ul Mujahideen, on its soil. They move around freely, organise public rallies, run madrasas that teach extremist Islamist ideology and train Pakistani youth to undertake terrorist attacks against India. The outfits are funded and facilitated by the ISI. Islamabad undoubtedly gets encouragement from China blocking India’s efforts to question Pakistan at the UN Sanctions Committee. Evidence of the growing influence of the terrorist Islamist outfits is the public threat delivered by the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed in late May 2016, to the Pakistan government to “show some guts” and warn Beijing to treat the Muslims in Xinjiang properly. Weeks later, a Pakistan Religious Affairs Bureau delegation travelled to China’s Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region to assess the condition of Muslims there.
The coordinated action by Pakistan’s Prime Minister of raising the Kashmir issue at international fora, including the UNGA, dispels the assiduously cultivated myth that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is powerless. He was complicit in the planning of the Pakistan army’s operation in Kargil and, additionally, selects and appoints the Pak army chief.
Different countries including the US, UK, France and Russia—all permanent members of the UNSC—have sent India messages of condolences and sympathy. Except Russia, all others have recently suffered from terrorist attacks by individuals who have been indoctrinated and trained during visits to Pakistan. But there has been a deafening silence from China till 22 September, when Beijing issued an anodyne clarification which avoided any criticism of Pakistan and urged India and Pakistan to resolve differences peacefully. Another statement reiterated its standard position on Kashmir. Implicit in China’s failure to criticise Pakistan for the terrorist attack is that it will veto, or frustrate, any attempt by India to isolate Pakistan or place it under sanctions.
In the final analysis, India will have to tackle Pakistan on its own and explore options to put it under sustained pressure to get it to eschew terrorism as an instrument of state policy. There are enough fault-lines in Pakistan for India to exploit.
Jayadeva Ranade is a former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India and is presently president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.