Countering Pakistan- Supported Terrorism: The Military Options
Expert observers have written reams of material concerning the never-ending confrontation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The issue leaves the radar screen during quiet periods, only to return when an incident touches-off another cycle of violence. The two countries are currently in the midst of another confrontation that again threatens to escalate into open military conflict.
This latest round started on September 18, when four terrorists from Jaish e Mohammed - JeM (an Islamist group based in Pakistan), attacked an Indian Army base in Uri, just 10 kilometers from the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir. The terrorists killed 18 Indian soldiers before being killed in a protracted firefight. The Indian government states it has conclusive proof that the terrorists infiltrated into India from Pakistan with assistance provided by the Pakistan Army.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads the Hindu-Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government currently in power in New Delhi. The BJP has long pledged to take a strong stance against Pakistan supported terrorist attacks. Just hours after the Uri attack, Modi stated that "I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished." (1) Although Modi promised quick action, there was no Indian military response for 11 days. On September 24, the Prime Minister "made a speech that many interpreted as a call for strategic restraint." (2)
The situation changed dramatically September 29, when Lt. General Ranbir Singh, India's Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), announced that Indian troops had carried out "surgical strikes" on a number of "terrorist launch pads" across the line of control. General Singh provided few specifics, but later press reports citing anonymous sources, confirmed the attacks were carried out by Indian Special Forces on 5-6 targets, located from 2 to 3 kilometers inside Pakistani territory. The Indian forces reached their destination on foot and in helicopters. The sources claimed that up to 30 militants and two Pakistani soldiers were killed in the five-hour long night time operation and that there were no Indian casualties. (3)
Pakistan denied there was any such operation, claiming only that two of its troops were killed in "unprovoked shelling." Both countries are now preparing for further escalation. India has reinforced its paramilitary forces along the India/Pakistan border and ordered villages within 10 kilometers of the India/Pakistan border evacuated.
Indian public opinion has been almost universally supportive of India's military response. Although India is deeply divided politically, all parties are expressing support. This latest confrontation has revealed a deep level of frustration among the Indian populace. After suffering decades of terrorist attacks originating in Pakistan, there is strong public support for military measures to convince Pakistan to abjure its support for terrorism.
This is not the first time the two countries have been locked into a confrontation that threatened to escalate into a military conflict. India...