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‘Appropriate response’ to Uri: Modi under pressure to act

New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on Monday conferring with senior ministers, security and military advisers and other experts as his government sought to craft an “appropriate response” to Sunday’s terror assault on the Uri army garrison in Jammu and Kashmir.

The attack, one of the biggest targeting the Indian Army in recent years, and quickly blamed on Pakistan, resulted in the deaths of 17 soldiers and substantial damage to military property just a few kilometres from the Line of Control with Pakistan.

With calls mounting from inside the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that India should “teach a lesson” to Pakistan — with one senior party strategist Ram Madhav demanding “for one tooth, a complete jaw” — Modi is under pressure to live up to his 2014 election campaign rhetoric of showing Pakistan that India is not a “soft power” and would give a “befitting reply” to any attacks on the country.

Expectations of appropriate action were raised when Modi himself said soon after the attack that “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished”, while the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fountainhead of the party, said that “terrorists, their masters and their supporters should be dealt with firmly and conclusively”.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also said he had asked Army Chief, Gen. Dalbir Singh, to take action against “those responsible for the attack”.

There were arguments for and against a retaliatory military action, even a “punitive counter attack”, as many military analysts are demanding. There were various war scenarios being drawn out in South Block’s board rooms with one former general suggesting on TV that India should not be seen “pussyfooting” anymore as it had “conventional superiority” and could deal with military exigencies.

With the world watching anxiously, and foreign embassies monitoring the “flashpoint situation” closely, Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s statement that Pakistan will not hesitate to use “tactical nuclear weapons” if the need arose and that “horses should be ready” for action has led to a building up of a tense situation in the subcontinent with unpredictable consequences.

After the spate of high-level visits on Sunday, including by the Defence Minister and the Army Chief, Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi was flying to Srinagar on Monday to review the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir with the top police and civil officials in the state government, an official source said here.

The valley has been restive since the July 8 killing of militant commander Burhan Wani, with the almost unending protests resulting in close to 90 deaths, including that of three policemen, and over 11,000 injuries.

Mehrishi will be also call on the state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Governor N.N. Vohra. Mehrishi is expected to attend a series of meetings with officials of the state government, army, police and paramilitary forces, the source added.