Srinagar: As India considers its response to the suicide car bombing of a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 40 soldiers, former Northern Commander Lt Gen (Retd) DS Hooda, who oversaw the much-lauded military strike against Pakistan in 2016, has urged caution.
A local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosives-laden van into a convoy bus on Thursday, killing 40 soldiers and injuring two dozen others in the worst attack against forces in Kashmir's history. India has blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a "crushing response”.
Lt Gen 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.
The former general, who was in charge of the army's northern command at the frontier with Pakistan in Kashmir and counterinsurgency 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.
Nineteen Indian soldiers and three assailants were killed in that attack. India blamed Pakistan for supporting the attackers, who New Delhi alleged were Pakistani nationals.
At the peak of the 2016 cycle of violence following the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani, Hooda called for all sides to take a step back from the deadly confrontation, suggesting that political initiatives be taken instead. It was a rare move by a top Indian army general in Kashmir.
Later that year when the attack on the base in Uri happened, Hooda commanded what New Delhi called "surgical strikes" against militants in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan denied that the strikes ever occurred, demanding that India produce evidence to back up the claim.
Hooda has since said that the constant hype of "surgical strikes" was unwarranted.
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 the issue of Kashmir.
A pre-recorded video circulated widely on social media showed the attacker, Adil Ahmed Dar, in combat clothes surrounded by guns and grenades claiming responsibility for the attack and calling for more such measures to drive India out of Kashmir.
Since 2016, soldiers from India and Pakistan have often traded fire along the frontier, blaming each other for initiating the skirmishes that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of soldiers and civilians on both sides in violation of a 2003 ceasefire accord.
Hooda said 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.