On 14 February 2019, in Pulwama district, in Indian-administered Kashmir, a car carrying at least 300 kilograms of explosives rammed a bus into a convoy of 70 vehicles in which roughly 2,500 Indian troops were travelling. At least 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed, making it the deadliest militant attack on Indian forces in Kashmir since 1989.
The insurgency in Kashmir began in the late 1980s as Kashmiri separatists demanded either complete independence for Kashmir or accession to Pakistan. Since then, regional tensions have only escalated.
The Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad have claimed responsibility for the attack. The Indian government has blamed Pakistan, who has been accused of supporting the group. Pakistan agreed the matter was of “grave concern” but rejected any responsibility. Violent clashes broke out and mobs damaged vehicles in the Hindu-majority region of Kashmir just after the attack — much of the region had to be shut down and a curfew was imposed. Given the circumstances and rage of Indian citizens, the Indian leadership and the Cabinet Committee decided to withdraw the “Most-Favored Nation” status from Pakistan, a special trading privilege granted in 1996. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has condemned the attack, calling it “despicable” and assuring that “the sacrifices of the brave security personnel will not go in vain”.
The terrorist organization behind this attack has been held accountable for multiple attacks in India. Its leader, Maulana Masood Azhar remains at large and is reportedly in Pakistan’s Punjab province, although Islamabad denies this, citing a lack of proof. The attack not only has massive implications on bilateral relations but also for regional stability. Violence has already spiked in the valley, killing more than 500 people in 2018 and may increase as tensions rise. The actions of the Indian government will come at a critical time; an aggressive approach can lead to adverse relations and involve China, an ally of Pakistan. After the 2016 attack on an Indian base which killed 19 Indian soldiers, Delhi carried out a surgical strike in Pakistan. As the snowy weather in Kashmir limits the options of the Indian security forces, we can only hope an investigation can allow for global sanctions against Jaish-e-Mohammad and its leadership.
An unexpected attack like this has tremendous effects on a country whose citizens and the heart-broken families demand revenge.
And tonight, India mourns. But tomorrow, it will get up and fight.