India blames Pakistan for Kashmir attack, promises a response



NEW DELHI — India accused Pakistan on Friday of orchestrating a suicide bombing that killed dozens of soldiers in Kashmir, the worst attack there in decades, promising an appropriate response and calling on world leaders to isolate its neighbor.

Pakistan has denied involvement in the attack, in which at least 40 Indian soldiers were killed Thursday when a driver slammed an explosives-packed vehicle into a paramilitary convoy. But by Friday, India had recalled its ambassador to Pakistan for consultations in New Delhi.

With national elections in India set to take place by May and Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a close contest, analysts say he risks looking weak if he does not respond. Modi was elected in 2014 on promises to crack down on Kashmir’s militants and to adopt a tougher line on Pakistan. The nuclear-armed rivals have gone to war three times since independence in 1947, with two of the wars fought over Kashmir.

“We will give a befitting reply; our neighbor will not be allowed to destabilize us,” Modi said after an emergency meeting with security advisers on Friday. “Our security forces are given full freedom” to respond.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said India would use all diplomatic means to “ensure the complete isolation from the international community of Pakistan, of which incontrovertible evidence is available of having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident.”

The streets of Jammu, in Kashmir, the part of the disputed Himalayan region that India controls, were generally quiet on Friday after a curfew was imposed. But anti-Pakistan protests broke out in parts of India, with demonstrators calling on the government to retaliate.

Scores poured into Delhi’s streets, wearing the saffron-colored scarves of Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, pumping their fists in the air and waving signs that read: “Attack Pakistan. Crush it.”

But India’s options for putting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan are limited. Pakistan is largely shielded by its alliance with China, which has used its veto power at the U.N. Security Council to protect it, while propping up Pakistan’s sputtering, increasingly isolated economy.

India’s options for a military response are also limited, analysts say, with the disputed border blanketed in thick snow and Pakistani troops on high alert.

Maria Abi-Habib, Sameer Yasir and Hari Kumar are New York Times writers.


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