FROM possible strikes against jihadist military infrastructure across the Line of Control to Pakistan Army positions that are alleged to have helped push infiltrators, an entire range of responses are being considered by the Indian security establishment in retaliation against Sunday’s attack in Uri, government sources told The Indian Express.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, sources said, chaired a Sunday morning meeting involving top intelligence and Army officials, where he called for options to be prepared for presentation to the Prime Minister.
The Northern Command, senior military sources said, has begun assessing plans to strike Pak Army positions that are suspected to have facilitated the infiltration of jihadist groups through the LoC, using special forces or artillery. In addition, New Delhi is also considering deeper strikes on training camps across the LoC, as well as the use of intelligence assets to target commanders responsible for the Uri attack.
The discussion on Sunday, which included representatives of the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing and the Directorate-General of Military Operations, also touched on possible Pak military responses to Indian strikes.
“We will avenge the killings of our soldiers”, a top military commander told The Indian Express, “but we will do so based on cold-blooded professional military assessment, and on a timeline of our choosing, not one dictated by political imperatives or the prime-time news cycle”.
The intelligence services are scheduled to hold a series of meetings on Monday to review and assess available information on the Uri strike, sources said. The key evidence so far, a senior military official said, has come from the Defence Intelligence Agency, which provided intercepted communications which led Director-General of Military Operations Ranbir Singh to tell reporters on Sunday that the strike had been carried out by the Jaish-e-Muhammad — also responsible for the January 2 attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.
However, based on data gathered by monitoring coded jihadist communications around Uri in the hours after the attack began, both the Intelligence Bureau and the Indian Army’s Srinagar-based XV corps are believed to have told the Government they assess the Lashkar-e-Taiba may have had a role in the strike.
Few details have emerged, either, on precisely where the terror assault team crossed the Line of Control, though military sources in Srinagar said they believe it likely crossed the Haji Pir pass, travelling north towards Uri, over the weekend.
The exercise initiated by the NSA on Sunday, sources said, is the most thorough-going since the 26/11 strikes, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had considered air and missile strikes against Lashkar-e-Taiba camps inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Singh, however, dropped the plans inside days of the attacks, after the armed forces and intelligence services said they could not guarantee success.
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Fali Homi Major, the then-air force chief, had told the Prime Minister he was prepared to strike inside Pakistan, but could not do so because the intelligence services could not provide adequate digital data on Lashkar camps. Then army chief Deepak Kapoor also demurred, saying the army was not prepared for a brief, surgical war.
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Indian diplomats have been asked to brief world capitals on the terror strike ahead of the United Nations General Assembly meeting commencing on Monday, where Pakistan is expected to aggressively raise the Kashmir issue. The United States on Sunday “strongly condemned” the Uri attack but has not not named Pakistan. In private, United States diplomats have expressed concerns about the escalation of military tensions.
The Prime Minister, a senior diplomatic sources said, is however unlikely to pursue direct diplomatic options to resolve the crisis, as he did after the Pathankot crisis. “Though the Prime Minister has not yet foreclosed non-military options”, a senior Indian diplomat said, “he simply does not believe Nawaz Sharif is in a position to deliver on terrorism”.
Following the Pathankot Air Force base attack, Pakistan had briefly clamped down on Jaish-e-Muhammad’s activities, enforcing a 2002 ban on the organisation. However, its key leaders have been increasingly visible in recent months. In the current issue of the group’s magazine, al-Qalam, military chief Abdul Rauf Asghar wrote dismissively Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s promise to crack down on terrorism. “There have been thousands of action plans to wide out jihad”, he wrote, “but jihad and jihadists thrive, and will thrive until the day of judgment”.
Both Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders have been delivering speeches calling for jihad against Indian forces in Kashmir, and raising funds for operations in the state.