In the worst ever terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir since militancy erupted in 1989, a suicide bomber on Thursday rammed his SUV packed with explosives into a CRPF bus on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Pulwama district, killing at least 42 troopers and leaving the security established stunned.
The armed forces have stepped up military pressure along the volatile Line of Control in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, with Pakistan army too raising its alert levels, but the dominant feeling is that the government needs to seriously consider options for limited cross-border strikes to compel Islamabad to change its behaviour.
The military options, short of going to war, could range from ‘shallow’ ground-based attacks and occupation of some heights along the LoC to restricted but precision air strikes against ‘non-state targets’ in PoK, senior military officers said. There is growing agreement in the security establishment that carefully-calibrated airborne strikes are among the most viable and effective options to teach a lesson to Pakistan, with the ground-based ‘surgical strikes’ of September 2016 having somewhat lost their element of surprise.
Fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s and Jaguars, armed with ‘smart’ glide bombs and missiles, can be used to take out some terror camps and launch pads near the LoC from ‘stand-off ranges’ without even crossing into Pakistani airspace. “Preparation time for such air strikes is minimal,” said an officer on the condition of anonymity.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Friday that America supports India’s right to self-defence after the two officials discussed the Pulwama terror attack in which over 40 security personnel were killed.
Mr Bolton telephoned Mr Doval on Friday morning to express his condolences for the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir and offered the US’ full support to India in confronting terrorism.
“I told Ajit Doval today that we support India’s right to self-defence. I have spoken to him twice, including this morning… and expressed US’ condolences over the terrorist attack,” he told PTI.
Mr Bolton said the US has been very clear to Pakistan on ending support to terrorist safe havens.
“We have been very clear on that score… And, we are continuing to be in discussions we are going to have with the Pakistanis,” he said.
Earlier, the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Pakistan to end its support to terrorist safe havens inside the country.
“We stand with #India as it confronts terrorism. Pakistan must not provide safe haven for terrorists to threaten international security,” Mr Pompeo said on Twitter.
In a stern message to Pakistan, the White House asked Islamabad to “immediately end” its “support” to all terror groups and not to provide “safe haven” to them, as the US condemned the brutal Pulwama terror attack claimed the lives of at least 40 CRPF soldiers.
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday that left at least 40 CRPF soldiers dead and five others critically wounded.
“The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a late night statement on Thursday.