After a week of rising tensions, India is targeting military sites in Pakistan. Reuters reports:
India said on Thursday it had conducted “surgical strikes” on suspected militants preparing to infiltrate from Pakistan-ruled Kashmir, making its first direct military response to an attack on an army base it blames on Pakistan and raising the risk of escalation.
Pakistan said two of its soldiers had been killed in exchanges of fire and in repulsing an Indian “raid”, but denied India had made any targeted strikes across the de facto frontier that runs through the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
The cross-border action inflicted significant casualties, the Indian army’s head of operations told reporters in New Delhi, while senior government officials said Indian soldiers had crossed the border to target militant camps.
Pakistan, as ever, sees real advantages in taking swats at India. India’s Narendra Modi, who heads a broadly nationalist party, can’t allow these kinds of things to go unanswered. He has been threatening various possible responses (including abrogating a long-standing water use treaty) to what Delhi claims was a Pakistani-sponsored terror attack less than two weeks ago killed 18 Indian soldiers.
This sort of unnerving skirmishing happens every so often between the two unhappy cousins, and is in its own way a kind of valve for relieving pressure. While it’s true that possessing nuclear weapons makes open conflict between powers much less likely, it also encourages both sides to snipe at each other much further down the escalation ladder. The fact that early reports have Pakistan is in its own way downplaying the significance of India’s strikes suggests Islamabad is not that keen on escalating.
Of course, tempers run hot, trust is low, and miscalculations can happen. The Bush Administration managed to pull India and Pakistan back from the brink of nuclear war in 2001. With elections looming, and the Obama Administration’s attention already stretched thin in other theaters, would the United States have the capacity and energy to do the same this time around?