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Sep 29, 2016 | 20:03 GMT

2 mins read

India: Skirmish With Pakistan Could Signal Policy Shift

South Asia Snapshot Display
(Stratfor)

India may be adopting a more aggressive posture toward Pakistan. On Sept. 28, Indian paratroopers launched a cross-border raid on at least five suspected terrorist camps in the Pakistan-administered region of Kashmir. The operation followed an announcement by Indian Director General of Military Operations Ranbir Singh that New Delhi had uncovered clear evidence of an imminent attack against India. According to Indian officials, 38 militants were killed during the raid.

As the operation unfolded, Pakistani and Indian troops reportedly traded fire across the Line of Control separating the two countries, leaving two Pakistani soldiers dead. Islamabad has since publicly questioned the nature of the raid, accusing Indian troops of firing indiscriminately across the border rather than launching the "surgical strike" New Delhi claimed it did. Islamabad's account, if true, would be representative of the skirmishes that frequently occur in the disputed Kashmir territory.

But if New Delhi's description of events is accurate, the raid could mark a newfound willingness on India's part to respond militarily to cross-border militant attacks. (The paratroopers' assault comes after gunmen conducted a Sept. 18 attack on an Indian army base in the village of Uri that left 18 soldiers dead.) Though Indian and Pakistani troops often exchange gunfire, New Delhi has so far refrained from using incursions into Pakistani territory to quash the militant threat.

The Pakistani government has good reason to downplay the incident as much as it can. Politically, it cannot afford to let an Indian surgical strike on Pakistani territory go unpunished. New Delhi, on the other hand, has an incentive to play up the raid as evidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's willingness to respond decisively to Pakistan's perceived involvement in the assault on Uri. That said, though both sides showed typical levels of bravado following the scuffle, they also showed a degree of restraint. Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, for instance, said his country would respond only if India attempted to launch similar operations in the future — something Singh has said New Delhi has no intention of doing. Though these statements are not definitive, they do not hint at further retaliatory action by either party in the near future. At the same time, however, they underscore the persistent political and security constraints preventing India and Pakistan from fully reconciling.

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