New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today chaired a high-level meeting, a day after 17 soldiers were killed and 19 other personnel injured in a militant attack in north Kashmir’s Uri town. Home minister Rajnath Singh, defence minister Manohar Parrikar, finance minister Arun Jaitley, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag were among those in attendance at the meeting.
Singh reviewed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the border areas, and held a separate meeting with Parrikar and the army chief, both of who visited the state shortly after the attack.
In the early hours of September 18, heavily armed militants, suspected to be members of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, stormed at a battalion headquarters of the army, PTI reports. Explosions and gunfire erupted as the militants attacked the camp, located barely a few metres away from the army’s brigade headquarters in Uri town, 102 kms from Srinagar, around 5:30 am.
Four terrorists were killed after a three-hour gun battle.
The attack in Uri comes months after seven military personnel were killed when six militants attacked the Pathankot air base and two years after militants had carried out a similar attack at Mohra in the same area. Ten security personnel were killed in the attack that took place on December 5, 2014.
Doval, along with top officials from the home and defence ministries, army, paramilitary forces and chiefs of intelligence agencies, briefed Singh on the latest ground report in the Valley as well as along the Line of Control, official sources said.
Possible strategies to deal with the fresh challenges arising out of the terror attack was also discussed during the meeting.
Home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, who postponed his visit to Srinagar, was also present. According to the sources, the home minister and the top officials also reviewed the security situation across the country, particular along the western border – from Punjab to Gujarat.
Meanwhile, a team from the National Investigation Agency is expected to visit Uri to gather leads and other evidence from the site of the attack.
India reacted strongly to the attack. Modi expressed his outrage and condemned the killing in a series of tweets.
“I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished,” he wrote.
The home minister, who had yesterday called an emergency meeting in Delhi, pointed a finger directly at Pakistan, calling it is a “terrorist state” and urging that it should be isolated.
“There are definite and conclusive indications that the perpetrators of Uri attack were highly trained, heavily armed and specially equipped,” Singh said, vowing to identify those behind it.
Echoing the views of Modi and Singh, Jaitley asserted that the perpetrators of the terror attack would be punished and that India would intensify diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally.
According to the Times of India, Parrikar paid tribute to the martyred soldiers and said that their sacrifice would not go in vain.
President Pranab Mukherjee also tweeted in reaction to the attack.
State chief minister Mehbooba Mufti led senior army and police officials in paying tributes at the wreath laying ceremony for the soldiers killed in the attack.
Mufti said that the Uri attack was aimed at triggering fresh violence in the state and creating a “war-like” situation in the region, adding that Jammu and Kashmir has always been the worst victim of Indo-Pakistan hostility and its people have been paying a colossal price for it for over six decades, PTI reported.
Former home minister P. Chidambaram on Sunday asked the government to mobilise security forces to prevent infiltration of terrorists from across the border in the wake of the terror attack, Firstpost reported.
Pakistan has rejected India’s assertion that it was involved in the attack. According to the Hindustan Times, foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz on Monday termed the allegations as “irresponsible and baseless” and expressed concern over the validity of the statements made from the Indian side.
“These allegations are being made without proper investigation and this is worrisome,” he said.
Aziz said the statements were being made to divert attention from the human rights abuses taking place in the Valley. “Even children and old people are not safe from these human rights violations,” he added.
Soon after Singh pointed a finger at Pakistan for its “continued and direct support” to terror groups, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Nafees Zakaria dismissed the accusation. “India immediately puts blame on Pakistan without doing any investigation. We reject this,” he said.
Political reactions in India
Leaders across the political spectrum condemned the attack, with several taking to Twitter to express their outrage over the killings.
BJP leader Ram Madhav went a step further in his response, saying the days of strategic restraint were over and suggested that “for one tooth, the complete jaw” should be the policy after the attack.
According to the Indian Express, BJP president Amit Shah virtually laid the blame for the attack on Pakistan and said that India’s fight against terrorism had reach a decisive stage.
“Pakistan is trying to cause instability in India by constantly trying to lend support to terrorism and terrorist outfits.”
“India has been constantly fighting against terrorism and this fight is now in a decisive stage,” he said in a statement, adding, “the martyrdom of the brave sons of India would not be allowed to go waste and the central government is moving in the right direction.”
Terming the attack as a “deplorable affront” on national conscience, Congress president Sonia Gandhi hoped that the perpetrators would be brought to book.
According to The Hindu, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) condemned the attack in a statement, saying “terrorism is not the solution to the Kashmir issue” and reiterated the need for a political dialogue in the state.
The party noted that despite the deployment of a large number of security personnel in Kashmir, “the government has failed to stop the continuing infiltration of militants.”
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, however, held Modi responsible for the attack, alleging that it was his failure to tackle the situation in Jammu and Kashmir that had led to it.
“Our soldiers are being killed because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s negligence. Jammu and Kashmir is the integral part of our country which is gradually slipping out of control,” Prasad h alleged, according to a NDTV report.
The Aam Aadmi Party too held the BJP-led NDA government liable and asserted that the attack was as a result of “grave failure” of diplomacy and someone had to take responsibility for it. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal asserted that India would not “be cowed down by such attacks.”
Textile minister Smriti Irani also took to Twitter to condemn the attack and expressed her condolence for the loss of lives.
Condemning the attack, the US state department asserted it was “committed to our strong partnership” with India to combat terrorism.
US Ambassador to India Richard Verma tweeted his condolences for the lives lost in the attack.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he hoped the perpetrators of the crime would be brought to justice and all involved would be willing to work for the re-establishment of stability and prevent further loss of life. “The United Nations is following developments closely and shares the concerns of people living in the region for peace,” a statement issued by secretary general’s spokesperson said.
Condemning the “militant attack”, the secretary general expressed his “deepest sympathy and condolences” to the families of the soldiers who lost their lives and to the government of India and wished a speedy recovery to those injured in the attack.
Meanwhile, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as the head of the Non-Aligned Movement, also expressed his solidarity with the people of India.
“We are committed along with our brotherly people of the world to get into the depth of this problem that has generated proliferation of terrorist movements, which doesn’t respect life and the need for coexistence of people,” he said at a press conference after the summit in Margarita Island yesterday.
Acting High Commissioner for Canada to India Jess Dutton issued a statement saying that Canada strongly condemned the attack and extended condolences to the victims and their families. “We are appalled by these attacks and stand with the government of India in the fight against terrorism.”
The spokesperson for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development also issued a statement condemning the “terrible terrorist attack.”
“France remains at India’s side in the combat against terrorism. It calls on every state to fight effectively against terrorist groups operating on their territory or from their territory against other countries. France also recalls the importance it attaches to bringing calm and the peaceful settlement of disputes in the region of Kashmir,” it said.
(With PTI inputs)