Delhi must reveal its evidence over attack in Kashmir

India's reaction to the militant attack in Uri raises serious questions for the Indian leadership, writes Shaukat Qadir

A soldier patrols at Nowgam sector, near the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, in Indian controlled Kashmir. Mukhtar Khan / AP Photo
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Even as the attack was in progress, the Indian media was asserting that the attackers were of Pakistani origin and TV anchors and analysts were holding Pakistan responsible.

By the end of the day, every Indian media outlet was baying for blood. The next day, media reports were talking about instructions issued by the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to the army stressing the fact that he “wanted results” in what was being called “Operation Punish Pakistan”.

Interestingly, days before the Uri attack, four militants occupied a building next to the Indian brigade headquarters in the neighbouring valley of Poonch and held out for more than three days. This incident was either unmentioned or downplayed in the media until the Indian foreign office summoned the Pakistani high commissioner. One cannot but wonder why.

I have no way of knowing whether Indian assertions are true or not; just as I have no way of knowing whether accusations by Pakistani media that the attack was a false flag operation intended to divert attention from Indian state atrocities in Kashmir, are true or false.

As for the “holier than thou” attitude on both sides of the border, both countries have been guilty of false flag operations in the past; just as other countries, including the United States, have been.

I do know, however, that both countries are active in breaching each other’s security wherever they can. My Indian counterparts can surely list where Pakistan is guilty and many of their accusations are bound to be true.

That India has funded and trained militants of the Muttahida Quami Movement is now public knowledge, courtesy of reporting from the BBC. That India is encouraging and assisting dissident elements in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas and Balochistan is also generally acknowledged. Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti’s propitiously timed decision to seek asylum in India is a rather unsubtle reminder.

Let us examine some background. First, under Mr Modi, Delhi has been blowing hot and cold towards Islamabad but always with, at the very least, a hint of implied aggression. Second, after the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India warned Pakistan that any future attack would evoke a response. Therefore, it should be assumed that any misadventure of the kind that occurred in Uri, if of Pakistani origin, could result in strong retaliation.

On the other hand, at the moment more than a third of Pakistan’s regular army – ably assisted by other security agencies – is aggressively involved in counter insurgency operations in Pakistan. The requirement for these operations is ongoing.

Consequently, the Pakistan army would be hard pressed to maintain a state of balance against possible aggression from India, which has far greater resources than Pakistan, while also dealing with the more immediate domestic threat.

It would have taken a very foolhardy army chief in Pakistan to order or permit an attack on Indian forces to occur knowing full well the possible consequences of such an attack.

Raheel Sharif has been the army chief for just under three years and is about to end his term of office. Many months ago, he announced that he had no intention of seeking an extension. With less than two months left, he is hardly likely to tarnish himself by permitting such an attack.

Moreover, by now, he has an internationally acknowledged reputation. Many words could be used to describe him, but foolhardy is not one of them. In fact, he has proven to be remarkably level headed.

I am virtually certain that such a misadventure would have been actively prevented by all elements under his command or influence. I therefore conclude that the Pakistani state is not responsible for this attack.

But could the attackers be non-state actors of Pakistani origin? Yes, they could.

It has been some years since I last visited the Line of Control dividing Indian and Pakistani Kashmir. But, I have seen the LOC after the Indian barrier was completed. The 550-kilometre barrier is generally about 150 metres on the Indian side of the LOC.

The barrier is a double fence of barbed concertina wire, electrified and mined between the two fences. The fences are 2.5 to 3.5 metres high and have judiciously spaced motion sensors and thermal imaging devices. The barrier is well lit and has several alarm systems.

It is by no means impossible to breach but to breach it undetected and penetrate almost 10km and inflict such damage seems close to impossible.

Perhaps the attack was carried out by Indian Kashmiri militants in retaliation for their sufferings. After all, the continuous repression of Indian Kashmiris is now an established fact. Why New Delhi chooses to rule out this possibility is best known to Mr Modi.

Nonetheless, I eagerly await the evidence Delhi has promised to provide. Unless it is an obvious fabrication, it must be investigated.

Brig Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani infantry officer