Could India and Pakistan really go to war?
It almost seems an absurd question to ask. After all, both countries have long been nuclear powers -- a deterrent that encompasses the lives of a combined 1.4 billion people. Both nations have also seen some years of relative peace along their border, a break from the wars that pockmarked the 20th Century.
And yet, hours after 18 were killed in an attack on an army base in Indian-administered Kashmir, the director-general of military operations for the Indian Army announced that the terrorists carried gear which had "Pakistani markings."
Arnab Goswami, the host of the country's most-watched English news hour, expressed rage at Pakistan: "We need to cripple them, we need to bring them down on their knees."
One of his guests, a retired army general, went a step further: "We must be seen as inflicting punishment on Pakistan by non-terrorist means ... the nation needs a catharsis!"
But what about the ready nuclear arsenals both countries possessed? Surely that would be a deterrent?
Major General G. D. Bakshi, had a clear answer: "Pakistan is one-fifth the size of India. If we fire even a part of our arsenal, most of it will be on the Pakistani Punjab, from where the Pakistani army comes: Not a crop will grow there for 800 years!"
"Let's stop self-deterring ourselves," he cried.
Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman told CNN that India was "desperately looking for ways to deflect the world's attention from the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir," referring to the protests and unrest there.
And emotions have boiled over on the Pakistani side, too.
Sunday's attack is not the first deadly attack on Indian soil that New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in.
n January, another Indian military base was attacked in northwestern Punjab, not far from the border with Pakistan. And then there were the Mumbai attacks in 2008 in which 164 people were killed.
While Indian officials continue to link those attacks to the Pakistan government, Islamabad has consistently denied any involvement. In each of these terror attacks, and others like them, there have been calls for a strong Indian response.
The next steps of diplomacy -- or a war of words -- are likely to play out in New York this week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. New Delhi is expected to call for sanctions on its neighbor, for what it alleges are clear moves to support terrorism.
Islamabad, meanwhile, is expected to highlight unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a two-month-old curfew persists after mass demonstrations and violence.
India's approach will be crucial.