The magnitude of Pulwama attack is rattling, much bigger than Uri, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Nagrota. It surpassed all the covert actions in the three decades of insurgency in Kashmir. The scale of this act of war will certainly get a bigger response for India. The Surgical Strikes after Uri were assertion of a strong policy that New Delhi has adopted to deal with a Rogue State like Pakistan. As the killing of 45 CRPF jawans change the fundamentals of internal and external policies towards Pakistan, pragmatism also calls for avoiding any knee-jerk reaction. The asymmetrical war by Pakistan Army, ISI and its proxies must be responded with a well-thought, calibrated and responsible but vigorous action, opines Rahul Dixit, Assistant Editor of ‘The Hitavada’.
‘TIME and place of our choosing’, was the steely resolve after the Uri attack in 2016 as an apoplectic India sought revenge for its martyred sons. The wave of rage passing through the nation after the Pulwama carnage by Jaish-e-Mohammed’s suicide bomber is much more serious. A numbed nation is paradoxically seething in anguish and anger, watching eagerly how the harshest-ever response to Pakistan is planned. Offensive has started on diplomatic and political level but a military retaliation must be driven by the geopolitical reality of the present world. It is India’s own war where the world will condemn terrorism but will always desist in drawing a red line for Pakistan. The magnitude of Pulwama attack is rattling, much bigger than Uri, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Nagrota. It surpassed all the covert actions in the three decades of insurgency in Kashmir.
The scale of this act of war will certainly get a bigger response for India. The Surgical Strikes after Uri were assertion of a strong policy that New Delhi has adopted to deal with a Rogue State like Pakistan. As the killing of 45 CRPF jawans change the fundamentals of internal and external policies towards Pakistan, pragmatism also calls for avoiding any knee-jerk reaction. The asymmetrical war by Pakistan Army, ISI and its proxies must be responded with a well-thought, calibrated and responsible but vigorous action. GOOD START India has started well by revoking the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan. Though the trade volume between the two countries is not at a significant scale, it can hurt production costs and add to the economical mess that Pakistan finds itself in. Economic squeezing of Pakistan through leveraging diplomatic and trade relations with Islamabad’s financial sources is a potent option for India. It will require opening up of backchannel diplomacy and attractive projects for the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the biggest bankrollers to Islamabad. THE ISRAEL WAY While a full-scale war may be out of question between the two nuclear powers, India can easily replicate the Israel template used during the ‘Wrath of God’ operation launched by Mossad to avenge killing of 11 members of its Olympic team in Munich. Israel bombed the militant groups in Palestine and operatives of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to assassinate the killers -- and insist upon not just the right to avenge but also to assert national pride. India’s military responses, especially under the NDA Governments, have always been influenced by Israel’s war strategies during the Palestine uprising in West Bank and Gaza and the measured offensives against Hezbollah forces. Surgical strikes on terrorist camps after Uri attack were largely based on the Israeli strategy.
EXPLOITING FAULT-LINES A step further can be exploiting anti-establishment feeling in restive provinces like Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Balochistan. Both are sore points for Pakistan and vulnerable for an armed offensive against the country’s Army. Further, both regions are of extreme importance for China to fulfil its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its integral part, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Hurting the CPEC will be a double whammy for the economies of both all-weather friends. It can also push Beijing to force Pakistan for a peace patch-up with India. PAK IN US SCHEME Any military conflict with Pakistan is always a multi-front fight. Pakistan has always been a beneficiary of weak Western Policies. This is a tradition that has been exploited by the brazen leadership in Islamabad for decades. Under Donald Trump, the United States has made a big shift in its Pakistan policy and trimmed the military aid to Islamabad. However, the present situation in Afghanistan, where Pakistan has become an important player in peace negotiations with the Taliban, can change the dynamic pretty quickly. The US is desperate to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and working overtime in hammering a truce between the Taliban and Afghan politicians. Washington will not mind ignoring Pakistan’s sins for its own benefit like it did when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was making a nuclear bomb. That was also the time when Pakistan was an integral ally of US and Saudi Arabia in the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979. US President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski had declared supplying of arms and money to Pakistan for the Afghan resistance. He also told the US Government to review its policy towards Pakistan including more guarantee and more arms aid. Later, Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan brushed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme as “nothing of America’s business”. He kept getting Congressional clearance for funds to be given to Pakistan to fight the Afghan Jihad. All Pakistan’s sins were forgiven and overlooked till the end of the Afghan Jihad.
DIGITAL BATTLEFIELD Pakistan Deep State is taking full benefit of the situation as can be gauged from the intensified terrorist activities in Kashmir. The internal situation is of bigger concern for India, for, the PR machinery of groups like JeM and other terror organisations are in an overdrive to lure even educated and well-to-do youth in the Valley with the idea of Caliphate in Kashmir. The perpetrator of Pulwama attack was also a radicalised youth inducted into JeM very recently. This underlines the massive scale of brainwashing going on in Kashmir. The war is not only on the ground but equally on the digital battlefield.
CHANGE IN NATURE OF PROXY WAR More such attacks are possible as the terror groups change the nature of the proxy war. Indications came when sniper rifles were suddenly in vogue in the Valley a few days ago. The point of worry is of the use of IED and car bomb. It was frequently used in the 90s and early part of the millennium but suddenly went out of terror strategy. In recent times, IED and car bombs are regularly used by the Islamic State in Syria. This adds a different challenge to our Intelligence agencies that were surely found wanting this time. Pakistan will surely get an “unforgettable lesson” but it has to come through a multi-pronged strategy of our own. And one of those must come from reaching out to the people in Valley through governance, utilisation of Central funds and a hardest possible clampdown on separatist leaders, as part of an aggressive internal security policy. Kashmir has endured a lot for 30 years. The growing and aggressive Islamist sentiment must be countered on an urgent basis to give the Army a safe base to complete our revenge across the border.