New Delhi: The US statement overnight Thursday that it supported every country’s right to self-defence and “empathized" with India’s need to respond militarily to the Uri attack is being viewed at home as a departure from the past American policy when the US mainly called for restraint in the wake of terrorist attacks.

Analysts also say the US statement shows a hardening of its position vis-à-vis its one-time ally in the war against terrorism—Pakistan.

The comments were made by Peter R. Lavoy, senior director for South Asia in the US National Security Council, during an event organized by the Washington-based think tank, Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Describing the 18 September Uri attack in Kashmir as “horrific", Lavoy recalled that a previous US statement had “condemned this act of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan coming across to Indian territory and killing… it is now 19 soldiers... I think at the army base in Uri."

He went on to say that “every country has a right to self-defence", adding later that the US “empathized" with “the Indians’ perception that they need to respond militarily".

Lavoy, however, did add that “there really is a need for caution and prudence on both sides. So we do understand the very serious concern and attention by the Indian government to this attack, to this horrific attack, we share (with) India a strong commitment to preventing future attacks from occurring..."

The qualification notwithstanding, analysts in New Delhi are viewing the comments as a distinct “leaning towards India and supporting the Indian position".

Former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh noted that in the past, “the US would express concern about terrorist attacks in India but immediately advise restraint. This seems to have changed." In other words, it seems to be an indication that Washington no longer fears an escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan into a nuclear conflict thanks to the fact that India had “carefully calibrated its response, not targeted Pakistani troops but terrorist launch pads", Mansingh said.

“In effect, the US seems to be supporting India’s military action as an act of self-defence and not as an act of aggression," he said, referring to India’s announcement on 29 September that it had conducted cross-Line of Control (LoC) strikes against terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Mansingh was also of the view that the comments were a sign of the US hardening its position vis-à-vis Pakistan, thanks to the latter’s dual policy towards terrorism—specifically in Afghanistan, where Islamabad has not delivered the Sunni rebel Taliban to the talks’ table. Four rounds of peace talks between Pakistan, the US, Afghanistan and China with the Taliban in the past year have not resulted in luring the Taliban to the dialogue table and curbing the insurgency in Afghanistan. The US and other international troops have spent 15 years in Afghanistan trying to root out the Taliban—seen as deriving support from the Pakistani military—and establish a stable government.

Dhruva Jaishankar, a fellow on foreign policy at the New Delhi-based Brookings India think tank, was of the view that Lavoy’s remarks reinforced the justification that India had made on the strikes being “pre-emptive self defence".

There was also an appreciation in the US that Pakistan was “more of the problem than the solution", he said.

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