Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary to end bloodshed: IHK CM Mehbooba Mufti

Despite being a coalition partner with hardliner Bharatiya Janta Party, India-held Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took a bold step and stressed the need for Pak-India bilateral talks on Kashmir.

She took to Twitter to voice her heart and wrote, “Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end the bloodshed.”

“We have to talk because war is not an option,” she added.

Mufti, in the same tweet, expressed her fears of a backlash from Indian media but also showed her resolve to stand by what she believes to be right. “I know I will be labelled anti-national by news anchors tonight but that doesn’t matter.”

She said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are suffering.

Mehbooba Mufti expressed these views in the wake of an attack on an army base in IHK that killed nine, including five soldiers and a civilian. Three alleged militants were also killed in the attack.

A firefight erupted on Saturday when an unknown number of heavily-armed men stormed the base in Jammu, the second-largest city in the disputed Himalayan region bordering Pakistan.

Nine others, including women and children, were injured in the attack that the Indian army blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The director general of police for Jammu and Kashmir, S.P. Vaid, said communications intercepts “suggest that the terrorists involved in the attack belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad group”.

Indian authorities held Pakistan responsible for the attack, whereas Islamabad denied the allegation.

In a statement issued in Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said it was a pattern that Indian officials made irresponsible statements even before any investigation into any incident had been initiated.

India says Pakistan ‘will pay’ after attack

Meanwhile, India’s defence minister has said that Pakistan “will pay” for the attack on the army base in IHK.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who visited the injured in hospital, said that counter-terror operations at the camp had been called off.

“Our intelligence inputs indicate that these terrorists were being controlled by their handlers from across the border,” she told reporters.

“Pakistan is expanding the arc of terror… resorting to ceasefire violations (on the border) to assist infiltration. Pakistan will pay for this misadventure,” she said.

Sitharaman also corrected the earlier death toll given by police, who said ten including four attackers had been killed in the attack.

“The terrorists have been eliminated although there was information of four terrorists in the area… likely that the fourth (attacker) was a guide and didn’t enter the premises,” the minister said, putting the overall toll at nine.

The intruders took positions inside a residential complex meant for soldiers’ families as the army launched a counter-offensive to drive them out.

Hindu-majority Jammu, located in the foothills of the mountainous region, is relatively peaceful but has repeatedly seen suspected militant assaults on military bases close to the frontier with Pakistan.

Saturday’s attack comes 18 years after a similar militant attack on the base in 2003 that killed 12 soldiers.