The Big Picture- Uri Attack: Reasons and Responses
The recent attack on Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir has raised serious concerns for India as 17 soldiers were killed and 23 more were injured. This is supposed to be the heaviest blow the army has suffered in a single incident since the insurgency began in the valley in 1990 according to some observers. This is the second attack on military establishment after the Pathankot air base attack this year. The needle of suspicion points to militant outfits from across the border after the four suicide bombers were killed during the counter attack by the Indian forces. The attack has enraged the country and the demand for action to counter these attacks is gaining momentum.
Prima facie, the first reports that have come from some the site of this particular incident seem to suggest few things:
- The perpetrators had very detailed information about the layout of the camp itself. Perhaps, they had information about change of guard i.e. the fact that two units were handing over and these groups of soldiers were the most vulnerable and therefore, they used innovative tactics of setting the tents on fire later on using their ordinance to kill them. Clearly, this points to an intelligence advantage with the adversary. Whether there was a local collusion involved or not is a matter of investigation.
- Local intelligence agencies of the Indian side had provided some kind of indication that there were 4-6 people in the region and were planning such kind of attack. So there was a lapse from the Indian side. And the intelligence asymmetry worked in favour of the terrorists.
- There is an element of vulnerability when turnover takes place not only on the base but also at the pickets because the soldiers deployed are new to the place for a couple of days. The units are deployed on pickets and they come to the base. From the base, some of the soldiers go to the pickets and some come back. The soldiers are housed in tents because there are a larger number of people in the barracks than normal which should not be done.
- This attack is traditional to India-Pakistan tensions. The Pakistani intentions are to bring India over to the negotiating table on Kashmir issue through talks.
- There have been shortcomings on the military leadership because somewhere these repeated incidents of assaults are not being taken seriously. Pathankot incident has shown that a military target is good for a terrorist attack as it delegitimizes the army in front of its own people and enhances the profile of the terrorists as they take up on the might of a country and succeed in it.
- There are shortcomings on the political front also because the rhetoric that has come after each attack of taking strict action, using harsh words etc. makes us look very silly when such attacks actually happen.
- The Pakistani military may have a possible major role in this action because the details of battalions are maintained by them as well and the attack at this crucial time cannot be done without military inputs.
Pakistan embarked on a proxy war against India since 1990. India has been dealing with this problem since then for last 26 years be it the attack on Parliament, Mumbai attack and the recent ones. Indian Prime Minister at every international forum has mentioned terrorism and his concerns over it. In his 15th August speech of this year, he referred to Baluchistan and PoK. These are some strands of this attack. Pakistan wants to maximize its advantage by instigating Kashmiri people against India and the fact that there are number of teams operating along the LoC looking for these kinds of vulnerability is known to India. Indian Army keeps a check on such attacks. Currently in the international community, Pakistan is maintaining a defensive stand. It is also engaged with US and China. There is a need for three sided attack through military, operational and diplomatic means to counter Pakistan.
India has to look into domestic part. Government has to safeguard the national security. There is a lot of criticism on social media and the government needs to act on it. Politically, there are six state elections coming up in India which is also very important. This is not a situation which can be micro managed or controlled. Responding to this situation on the ground is not that easy because if an operation is started, it would trigger a chain of other activities which would be difficult to control. The idea of isolating Pakistan may not help much because many countries are investing in Pakistan.
Some military response or covert action is absolutely necessary for now to break out of these frequent attacks. India is capable enough and has options. What the political leadership needs to do here is to demonstrate its resolve while doing a cost benefit analysis about which path should be adopted. India is trying to share its experience globally on terrorism and this has to be done constantly as this is a long term challenge. Our security architecture has been neglected for long and this has to be given due attention. It is high time now that India gets out of its strategic patience.