The guns have spoken. A response is inevitable. Now the major question is whether India will be able to live up to its contention that the ldquo;surgical strikesrdquo; are over or whether the subcontinent is on the brink of a full-fledged conflict. It is now imperative for the Indian political leadership to stand united and solid behind its armed forces. As it has on previous occasion when the military option had to be exercised to rein in a neighbour hell bent on fomenting trouble. The exercise of that option followed a diplomatic and economic offensive that clearly did not have the desired impact. There is bound to be international pressure for displaying restraint but just how much more could India be expected to swallow? There is also likely to be international pressure to avert a potentially nuclear ldquo;situation.rdquo; The contours of the emerging scenario are indeed worrisome. Military action is at times unavoidable — but it can never be wholeheartedly welcomed.

Official details of the strikes at terrorist launch-pads have been tactfully limited: this is no occasion for gloating. The Indian forces struck at seven or eight places within twothree kilometres of the Line of Control reportedly ldquo;taking outrdquo; over 35 terrorists preparing to hit targets in India. No Indian casualties were reported during the night-long operation.

The mission was obviously well-planned efficiently executed. The initial Pakistani response underplayed the raid but that India is taking few chances is evident from a 10-km belt on the Punjab and Jamp;K border being compulsorily evacuated. The situation is fluid only those given tonbsp;jingoism — of whom there is no dearth — willnbsp;

be thrilled. Running the risk of war is no laughing matter how the BJP will ldquo;managerdquo; the situation will be a test of its maturity and sense of responsibility. The track-record has not been inspiring.

The politics of the ldquo;developmentsrdquo; cannot be wished away. The Prime Minister did reach out to his Pakistani counterpart but that paid no dividend. The engineered unrest in the Kashmir Valley followed by the killing of 18 soldiers at Uri aroused so much public anger that Mr Narendra Modi’s personal ldquo;strength and couragerdquo; were called into question. The Opposition ridiculed his initial display of restraint probably pushed him into a corner from which gunfire offered the only exit route.

The Army is not and should not be influenced by political factors. It must remain focused on thwarting the mischief Pakistan has consistently played courtesy a proxy war and sponsored terror. The strikes at the terrorist launch pads appear to have been conducted with exemplary professionalism. The Air Force Navy and paramilitary must now display matching prowess. For this is an hour of national reckoning and India as a nation must not waver.