India has called on the international community to join it in a strong response to the car bombing that killed at least 44 paramilitary police officers in Kashmir on Thursday, the deadliest attack since the region’s militant insurgency began in 1989.
The government in Delhi has blamed the incident on Pakistan, with prime minister Narendra Modi giving a speech warning that “we will give a fitting, jaw-breaking reply, our neighbour will not be allowed to destabilise us”.
On Friday afternoon, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale summoned Pakistan’s ambassador in Delhi and “issued a strong demarche” regarding the attack, according to a government source. The source also confirmed that the Indian ambassador to Islamabad had been recalled “for consultations”.
India said it would call for the UN to impose sanctions on leaders of an Islamist group based in Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which claimed responsibility for the attack.
“I appeal to all nations to come together and strengthen their efforts and resolve to put an end to menace of terrorism,” Mr Modi said. “I thank all the nations who have supported us and condemned this incident in the strongest of terms.”
The attack on Thursday afternoon targeted a convoy of vehicles carrying members of India’s security forces along the heavily guarded Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The vehicles were approaching Lethpora, a town about 12 miles outside the region’s main city Srinagar, when a car laden with explosives overtook the convoy and rammed into a bus full of paramilitary officers.
“The blast was so powerful that one cannot recognise whether the vehicle was a bus or a truck. Just pieces of mangled steel remain,” said Central Reserve Police Force spokesperson Sanjay Sharma.
He said five other vehicles were damaged in the explosion, and in addition to the dead at least two dozen members of the security forces were injured.
Videos circulated by local news groups showed ambulances rushing to the site and people running as smoke billowed from the damaged vehicles. Debris and body parts littered the road.
A pre-recorded video posted online in the aftermath of the attack purported to show the car bomber in combat fatigues, surrounded by guns and grenades.
And while Islamabad has issued a statement condemning the attack and urging others not to link it to the actions of JeM, India has made clear that it holds Pakistan responsible for supporting the bombing.
After an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday, India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley announced the withdrawal of the “most-favoured nation” trade status given to Pakistan, and said India would take all possible diplomatic steps “to ensure the complete isolation from international community of Pakistan of which incontrovertible evidence is available of having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident”.
He said home minister Rajnath Singh would visit Kashmir to review the security situation there, and warned that they will ensure “those who have committed this heinous act of terrorism and those who have supported it actively are made to pay a heavy cost”.
Indian soldiers and paramilitary officers are already a common sight in the streets and villages of Kashmir, by some reports outnumbering active militants by as many as 1,000 to 1.
India and Pakistan each rule part of the region, while claiming the entire territory as their own, and the neighbours regularly exchange fire across their hotly disputed border.
Since 1989, about 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising within Jammu and Kashmir state, and the ensuing Indian crackdown. Last year’s death toll was the highest since 2009, with at least 260 militants, 160 civilians and 150 government forces killed.
India has repeatedly moved for the UN Security Council to list Masood Azhar, the leader of JeM, as a designated terrorist, and to levy appropriate sanctions. Each attempt has been blocked by China, a close ally of Pakistan.
In a statement, the government of India reiterated this call on Friday, saying that Azhar “has been given full freedom by [the] government of Pakistan to operate and expand his terror infrastructure in territories under the control of Pakistan, and to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere with impunity”.
The White House urged Pakistan in a statement “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”. It said the attack strengthens US resolve to step up counterterrorism cooperation with India.
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