Former Indian army commander, Lt Gen DS Hooda says India may launch "some kind of limited strike [against Pakistan], but calls for settling "issues once for all," after at least 44 Indian paramilitary troops were killed in Kashmir suicide attack.

Indian Army soldiers patrol a street during a curfew in Jammu region of India-administered Kashmir, February 16, 2019.
Indian Army soldiers patrol a street during a curfew in Jammu region of India-administered Kashmir, February 16, 2019. (Reuters)

As India considers its response to the suicide car bombing of a paramilitary convoy in the disputed region of Kashmir that killed at least 44 Indian soldiers, a retired military commander on Saturday who oversaw a much-lauded military strike against neighbouring Pakistan in 2016 has urged caution.

A local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosive-laden van into a convoy bus on Thursday, killing dozens of soldiers and injuring two dozen others in the worst attack against Indian government forces in Kashmir’s history. 

India blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a "crushing response." 

The retired Indian military commander, Lt Gen DS Hooda, told The Associated Press on Saturday that while "some kind of limited [military] strike [against Pakistan] is more than likely," he hopes for "rethinking and reconciliation" from all sides in the conflict.

Lt Gen DS Hooda also told the New York Times that the explosives used in the attack could have been taken been from "stashes of explosives being used to blast a mountainside to broaden" a road in the region where the attack took place. 

He was of the view that the explosives used in the attack could not have been sent from Pakistan since, “it is not possible to bring such massive amounts of explosives by infiltrating the border.”

'Settle issues once for all'

The former general, who commanded the Indian army's northern command in charge of the frontier with Pakistan in Kashmir and counter-insurgency operations, oversaw India's "surgical strikes" in September 2016 after militants attacked a military base in the frontier town of Uri near the highly militarised Line of Control in India-administered Kashmir.

Nineteen Indian soldiers and three assailants were killed in that attack. India instantly blamed Pakistan for supporting the attackers, who New Delhi alleged were Pakistani nationals.

Pakistan denied that the strikes ever occurred.

At the peak of a 2016 civilian uprising triggered by the killing of a charismatic Kashmiri rebel leader Burhan Wani, Hooda called for all sides to take a step back from the deadly confrontation, suggesting that political initiatives be taken instead – a rare move by a top Indian army general in Kashmir.

Hooda has since said that the constant hype of "surgical strikes" was unwarranted.

Hooda said on Saturday that considering the state of affairs in Kashmir, he wasn't surprised by the bombing.

"I just hope this all leads to some introspection, some deep thinking and engagement to do everything afresh and rethink what we all should be doing to settle issues once for all," he said.

Pakistan rejects India's charges, again

Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua rejected India's allegations about Pakistan’s involvement in the attack, saying on Saturday that it was part of New Delhi's "known rhetoric and tactics" to divert global attention from human rights violations.

According to foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal, Janjua called for implementation of UN resolutions to solve Kashmir dispute.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. 

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country. Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

US support for India

Also on Saturday, India said the United States assured supports to New Delhi's right to defend itself against cross-border attacks. 

US National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Friday night, promising to help bring those behind the attack to justice, the Indian foreign ministry said in a readout of the phone call.

"The two NSAs vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan cease to be a safe haven for terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region," the foreign ministry said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies