Early on Sunday morning, armed militants gained entry to an Indian military base in Uri, approximately 65 miles from the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir and Jumu. In the ensuing chaos and gunfire, 18 Indian soldiers were killed. A few hours later, a shootout took place between an Indian Army unit and four militants, in which the four were killed.
It’s unclear which militant group is responsible, but the Indian government has been quick to point the finger at Jaish-e-Mohammad, and just as quick to insinuate that the Pakistani government was responsible for equipping and directing the group in the attacks. Pakistan denies any involvement, and in fact some circles within their government have accused India of orchestrating a false flag attack to garner support and sympathy. Whatever the case, the attack, the worst since such attacks began in 1989, has only served to fan the flames of a traditionally deadly conflict.
After news of the attack reached the media, Rajnath Singh, India’s home affairs minister, labeled Pakistan a “terrorist state,” suggesting that the militants were “highly trained, specially equipped, and heavily armed.” Although he stopped short of naming Pakistan the sponsor of the attack, and offered no evidence to support any theory, Singh went on to say that he was “disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups.” For its part, the Pakistani government was quick to deny any direct or peripheral involvement in the attacks. Nafees Zakaria, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke with CNN and stated that “this is a very irresponsible and baseless allegation that he has leveled against Pakistan, [and one] which we outright reject.”
Pakistan has long blamed India for sparking and fostering the unrest in the disputed Kashmir territory, which is presently occupied by its rival. The region has been in dispute since the late 19th century, when British colonial rule was reaching its end and the region was left largely up for grabs. While the British, Russians, and Afghans did sign boundary agreements concerning the northern borders of Kashmir, China never officially recognized them, and the 1949 communist revolution that established the People’s Republic of China only strengthened this stance. The Chinese Army moved units into the northern area in the 1950s, and the result has been a three-way standoff ever since, with the tension between India and Pakistan being the most heated and most widely reported.
For his part, and in an effort to focus on this latest incident, Minister Singh has called an emergency meeting with his senior officials and announced via Twitter that he is postponing visits to Russia and the United States to deal with the situation. Pakistan, for its part, has accused India of using the incident to deflect attention from what it believes are the true issues surrounding tension in the region, which had been relatively “quiet” for the last few years—until events in recent months reignited the tensions.
Same tensions, new causes
In July of this year, demonstrations were held after the Indian Army killed Burhan Wani, the 21-year-old so-called commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen separatist group. The protests quickly turned violent, with police stations, outposts, and other government buildings coming under attack. The ongoing clashes have resulted in 85 deaths and the imposition of a curfew. In a show of defiance, mourners defied the order and attended the funeral of an 11-year-old boy found dead on the outskirts of Srinagar. It is not known if his death was the result of the clashes, but witnesses claim that his body was riddled with pellet gun wounds, which points to the type of weapons used by India’s security and police forces to control and disperse crowds. Indian officials have not denied this fact, but have stated that the boy may have been killed when he was caught between security forces and protesters.
False flag accusations and no end in sight
In the aftermath of Sunday’s attack, and while India stands by its claims that the assault was carried out by free-reigning militants from across its border with Pakistan, some in the Pakistani intelligentsia have taken to the public stage to suggest that India may have staged the attack against its own troops as a way to ramp up tensions and garner a renewed nationalist movement.
Recently, Suzanna Arundhati Roy, an Indian author and political activist, attended an event organized by leftist and Dalit student unions. While addressing the gathering, Roy claimed that once they sense the people are turning against what they see as a stagnant incumbent entity, the ruling party in the government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, could conduct “false flag terror strikes” to create sympathy among the people on the issue of nationalism. An article from India.com says Roy stated,
“Elections are coming in a number of states…where BJP could face electoral reverses. To counter this, they have a plan. Now we have to remain prepared for ‘false flag terror strikes’. This is process of falsification. It is a criminal activity,” she said. “You cannot believe a single thing. You cannot believe when a terror strike is reported. You cannot believe who carried it out. You just cannot believe any propaganda.”
Although there is no evidence to this claim as it pertains to Sunday’s attacks, India claims to have evidence that, at the very least, the militants had some assistance. Government officials have claimed that inspections of the base and the militant casualties have revealed newer-production AK-47s and other (though unnamed) sophisticated equipment not seen before on these personnel. Whatever their origin, the weapons, equipment, and brazen attacks have thrown fuel on a once-smoldering regional fire that now threatens to explode. And in a region that boasts two nuclear-armed rivals, this fire is one that could engulf the entire globe.