Deadly Terror Attack Kills 40 Central Reserve Police Force Personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir
Over 40 personnel of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in a suicide terror attack in Pulwama district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, Feb.14. More than 2500 CRPF personnel were traveling in a convoy of 78 vehicles, on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway, when an SUV-reportedly laden with 750 pounds of explosives- was crashed into the convoy.
The police have identified the driver of the SUV to be Adil Ahmad Dar, who lived about 10 km (6.21 miles) away from the locus of the attack, in Gundibagh village. The Pakistan-based armed group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JEM) claimed responsibility for the incident and recognized Dar as the suicide attacker. Founded in 2000, JEM’s aim is that of subverting the jurisdiction of the Indian government over the India-administered part of Kashmir.
Accusing Pakistan of the Pulwama attack, on Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked “If our neighbor thinks it can destabilize India, then it is making a big mistake...”
Furthermore, after attending the emergency Cabinet Committee on Security convened on Feb. 15, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stated that India will take all possible diplomatic steps to ensure “complete isolation of Pakistan.”
Following the attack, India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan in accordance with the WTO guidelines. If a country accords the MNF status to another country, it must give the latter all the necessary concessions, privileges, and immunity in trade agreements as specified in the first clause of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
While Prime Minister Modi promised a “strong response”, India’s ability to put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan is limited by the country’s alliance with China. On several occasions, China has protected the diplomatic and economic interests of Pakistan using its veto power in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
More specifically, China has blocked India’s repeated bid to blacklist the leader of JEM, Masood Azhar, as a global terrorist under the supervision of UNSC 1267 committee. Blacklisting Azhar would be instrumental in financially constraining the armed group, JEM.
China reportedly rejected India’s renewed demand to ban Azhar, post the Pulwama attack, on Friday, Feb. 15. Comparing Beijing’s all-weather cordial relationship with Islamabad to the ambivalently tensed ties with New Delhi, some analysts deem that “Supporting Azhar could be a way to needle India and appease Pakistan” for China.
In regards to the question of a military response to the Pulwama attack, experts claim that India’s options are limited. Firstly, because of the difficult snow-clad terrain of the disputed border between India, which makes any effort of confrontation ineffective and impractical.
Secondly, Ajai Sahni, a counter-terrorism expert on South Asia pointed out the systematic failures on the government’s side. He claims that the “absence of sustained strategic preparation and abysmal neglect of defense, internal security, and intelligence sectors rule out an effective response.”
Countering India’s allegation, Pakistan denied any role in the Pulwama attack claiming that India’s accusations were “pre-conceived...and [made] without any investigation.” Rather than blaming Pakistan, the country’s Foreign Ministry stated, "India needs to introspect and respond to questions about its security and intelligence lapses that led to this attack."
The international community- including the United States, China, France, and Russia- responded by condemning the attack and offering its condolences to India. France has offered its support in combating the terror networks and limiting their sources of funding.
The United States has demanded Pakistan to abstain from shoring terrorists in the country. Moreover, the White House stated that the Pulwama attack “only strengthens our resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation and coordination between the United States and India.”