New Delhi: In what could potentially derail the recent rapprochement between India and Pakistan, three militants on Monday stormed a police station in Punjab’s border district of Gurdaspur killing at least seven people, including a senior police officer.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh blamed Pakistan for the terrorist attack that comes a fortnight after Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met in the Russian city of Ufa and agreed to explore ways to pursue peace talks stalled for more than two years between the two countries.

“We want peace with Pakistan, but not at the cost of national honour," Rajnath Singh was cited as saying by the Press Trust of India as security forces in Punjab battled three heavily armed militants who had stormed a police station in Gurdaspur.

“We will not be the first to strike, but if we are hit, we will give a befitting reply," Rajnath Singh said. “I can’t understand why time and again cross-border terror incidents are taking place when we want good relations with our neighbour."

The home minister said he would make a detailed statement in Parliament on Tuesday.

The police later killed the three militants at the end of a security operation that lasted close to 12 hours, PTI said.

The militants are suspected to be part of a group that slipped across the border in Jammu & Kashmir recently. The three later made their way into Gurdaspur, which lies on the international border across Narowal district in Pakistan’s Punjab state.

The militants, dressed in military fatigues, first attacked a bus, firing at the passengers. They then commandeered a car, killing the driver, and drove to the police station. The two sentries on duty were killed by the militants and when the police returned fire, the militants took shelter in the station. In the operation to evict them, one superintendent of police was killed, PTI said. Separately, five bombs were found on a railway track in Punjab, suggesting a possibly coordinated attack.

“The way the attack was executed is the standard tactic used by militants in Kashmir," said Ajai Sahni, executive director of Institute for Conflict Managem-ent, a think tank in New Delhi.

The attack seemed to be the handiwork of a group of militants “who had come across the border, have been told to attack a few types of targets—if not one type then the other", he said.

It could also be a message from sections within Pakistan that they retain the ability to execute effective attacks not only in Kashmir but also outside Kashmir, Sahni said.

But given that the militants were dead, it could take a while before it is established who was behind the attack, Sahni added.

The Pakistani foreign ministry in a statement condemned in the “strongest terms the terrorist incident in Gurdaspur". The statement emailed by the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi said, “Pakistan reiterates its condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."

The prime ministers of India and Pakistan had agreed to talks between the national security advisers as well as talks between their border guards and senior military officials. On Monday, the foreign ministry did not comment on whether these dialogues would go ahead or not.

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said the attack bore the signature of Islamist militants making their way across the border. Pakistan’s approach seems to be to launch such attacks and if India pulled out of peace talks in protest, to tell the international community that it was in favour of dialogue but that India was the insincere one.

“India has not yet found a way to deal with (this) tactic of Pakistan; the best way is to delay any move to hold talks," he said.

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