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Pressure from within India to retaliate after a suicide attack killed 44 paramilitaries in Kashmir is being met with threats of retaliation from Pakistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Tuesday that his country would retaliate if India attacked in response to a bombing in the disputed Kashmir region, for which Pakistan-based religious extremist group took credit, and which India blamed on Pakistan.
The prime minister added that he wanted to cooperate with the investigation of the suicide bombing Thursday, in which 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed in an attack claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group. Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors have risen sharply over the killing in the Indian-controlled part of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Pakistani authorities have denied any involvement in the attack and called for United Nations intervention. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is facing a general election in May, has come under pressure to strike as a form of revenge, and said he has given his security forces a free hand to administer a "strong response."
Khan, in a televised address to the nation, mentioned the cries in India for revenge and said he hoped that better sense would prevail.
"If you think that you will launch any kind of attack on Pakistan, Pakistan will not just think about retaliation, Pakistan will retaliate. And after that where will it head?" he said.
The South Asian neighbors have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir. While they have not waged full-scale war since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998, they have engaged in countless battles along their de facto boundary in the mountains of Kashmir.
Khan reiterated that Pakistan had nothing to do with the bomb attack and said it was ready to take action against anyone found to be behind it. "If you have any actionable intelligence that Pakistanis are involved, give that to us, I guarantee you that we will take action," Khan said.
India's Foreign Ministry spurned the offer, saying Islamabad had failed to act on proof given to it about previous attacks, saying there had been no progress in the Pakistani investigation into the 2008 attacks in Mumbai blamed on another Pakistani Islamist militant group.
"Promises of 'guaranteed action' ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan," the Indian ministry said in a statement.
Pakistan's military has a long record of nurturing militants as proxies in pursuit of foreign policy objectives, and India has for years accused Islamabad of supporting jihadists waging a nearly 30-year revolt in its only Muslim-majority state.
Muslim Pakistan has long said it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination, though that has never dispelled India's conviction of Pakistani support for militants.
Kashmir is a strategic region with glaciers and freshwater that provide water and electricity to around a billion people in India, while Pakistan relies heavily on the glacial waters for its agricultural sector.
“With a growing population and increased need for electricity, India has looked to the region to develop more hydro facilities,” Shawn Snow wrote for The Diplomat. “Pakistan fears that India may divert water necessary for irrigation, and use water as a weapon against Pakistan.”
Insurgency rose in Kashmir in 1987 after an election held in the India-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, strengthened the standing of the pro-independence insurgency. The election by the Indian government, said to have been rigged, led to a series of protests which resulted in the Indian army's deployment in Kashmir in 1989.
Since the 1990s, Indian troops have greatly increased military attacks on the insurgencies.