‘Finally India has done it’ is what is on the mind of all Indians and possibly many non Indians across the world. The military efficiency and finesse with which the surgical operations were carried out has been remarkable as has been the diplomatic build up over the last two weeks and the follow up there after. To achieve such success in an overcharged environment where Pakistan forces were in full alert speaks volumes for the planning, execution and leadership of the armed forces. The fact that there was no collateral damage in the operations too goes in India’s favour. In times to come these strikes will certainly be cited as examples for such operations in military training establishments across the world. A salute is also due to the political leadership of Mr Narendra Modi for a brave decision where the entire civilian and military team played their parts to perfection. It is indeed a proud day for Indian armed forces and for India as a whole.
In this entire euphoria one question that seems to be occupying most minds is what Pakistan will do next. Their military must be seething and feeling humiliated while the political leadership must be wondering how to react to the new resurgent Indian nation whom they had taken for granted over the last many years. By getting into a denial mode and saying no intrusions took place in POK and that it was all just cross border firing, the Pakistan establishment can fool a few for some time but most would know by now what really happened on the ground. Will the Pakistani nation as a whole ask for retribution as was the mood in India after the Uri incident? Or will they realise that their nation is no match for India when India gets going? After all in most spheres Pakistan is not even close to what India has achieved in last 70 years, though both nations started off from an absolutely similar take off point in 1947. On one hand India is an aspiring super power while Pakistan is close to being a failed state in more ways than one. Barring its nuclear arsenal, acquired in a dubious and clandestine manner, Pakistan has little to boast of since its birth.
India had very clear objectives in carrying out the surgical operations. The operations were aimed at destroying selected terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control (LOC) and given Pakistan’s penchant for harbouring terrorists, there are many such terror related targets available in POK. The operations were not aimed against any military or strategic establishment in Pakistan. These were purely anti terrorist operations and India conveyed the same to Pakistan’s military through the DGMO route once the operation was complete. India made it clear in its communication that they were fighting terror that was aiming to harm India and Indians. This perhaps was a master stroke since no one can fault India in its quest to fight terrorism that is now an accepted international policy for most nations of substance. Unfortunately for Pakistan India does not provide any terrorist linked targets on its soil and therefore Pakistan cannot justify any military action on Indian soil under the veil of fighting terror.
In light of above Pakistan has only two options. One option will be to intensify terrorism activity against India. This could be done in two ways. First it could train, arm, fund and facilitate passage of more terrorists or militants in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) or other parts of India. Second it could also activate sleeper terror cells in India where it may even seek support of ISIS. This will mean more disturbances in J&K as also some stray terror attacks in other parts of the country primarily against civilian targets. The second option, less likely though, would be to target military posts or isolated military targets along LOC by using regular troops. In selecting this option the aim would be to keep such actions limited to avoid its escalation into a war like situation – but then there is no guarantee that it will not. While Pakistan army may want to opt for the second option, chances are that political will may not favour that since it would like to avoid a war at all costs. It remains to be seen if the military will overrule political leadership, something that cannot be ruled out given its past history.
In case Pakistan opts for increased terrorist activity it will only reinforce its reputation of a state that harbours terrorists and India will certainly play its part in going out on an all out diplomatic offensive to further isolate Pakistan internationally. In addition nothing will stop India from carrying out more pre-emptive strikes across the LOC or even international border to neutralise terrorists or their infrastructure. Such misadventures are also likely to weaken Pakistan’s claims with regards to Kashmir in international forums. In any conventional military option Indian can certainly hold its own with a far greater sustainability than Pakistan. So the advantage would once again be with India. Unlike in the aftermath of past wars in 1965 and 1971, India is not likely to give back any territory that it may take from Pakistan in the future. As far as the question of use of tactical nuclear warheads is concerned, it may come in to play only if Pakistan is on its last legs in a conventional war. A conventional war is unlikely to last that long and therefore one may not worry too much on that account. Pakistan knows very well that use of such weapons will not be one sided and if nukes do come into play it stands to lose substantially more in any such eventuality.
In all likelihood Pakistan will have increased pressure internationally to deal with terrorism on its soil and avoid harbouring terrorists in the times ahead. Terrorism is becoming an irritant in the well being of most developed nations and more and more nations are likely to raise their voice against it. With ISIS spreading its wings from Middle East and finding more and more takers for its ideology in some parts of Pakistan, the world will take note of the same in a greater measure sooner or later. This would also mean scaling down of financial and other aid to Pakistan from USA in particular. China’s interests in Pakistan are mainly because of the Economic Corridor it is developing, but security concerns due to militant activity in Gilgit or Baluchistan or Afghanistan regions, may force China to go slow or suspend the same resulting in a reduction in investment. It is also well known that local Sindh province in Pakistan is also not too keen on such heavy Chinese presence and say in local matters. That will leave Saudi Arabia which is a major contributor to Pakistan’s financial kitty without really getting anything in return in real terms barring spread of its Wahhabi form of Islam. But once fight against terrorism intensifies and Pakistan starts getting isolated increasingly, may be Saudi Arabia too may have to rethink as international pressure will be brought to bear on it also. The fact that revenues from oil have taken a massive dip and are unlikely to increase in near future too will play its part as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned. Within South East Asia with likely cancellation of the SAARC Summit, Pakistan already stands isolated and this is unlikely to change unless it shows a real zeal to stop harbouring terrorists on its soil.
As of now India seems to be playing its cards well and if Pakistan continues to go the way it is going, things can only get worse for it as a nation. India will have to maintain its diplomatic offensive to seek Pakistan’s isolation in international community and also take other measures that may cause discomfort to Pakistan. Some of these like the review of Indus Water Treaty and Most Favoured Nation status are already on the cards. India will also have to drastically trim the wings of the pro Pakistan separatist leadership that is active in Kashmir. This will be essential to isolate them and to ensure minimum interference from them in the affairs of J&K. It will be in fitness of things to educate both Kashmiri youth and people in other parts of India to adopt a cordial attitude towards each other as an essential step towards restoring peace and confidence within the valley. It is not only a local Kashmiri who has to accept India as his or her motherland, it is equally important to remove any misconceptions and reservations from minds of some of India’s citizens too who view people from Kashmir with suspicion. It has to be a two way traffic for optimum results in the interest of the nation.
Finally Mr Modi has not only given a befitting reply to Pakistan but also to all his local critics who wondered about the boast of a 56 inch chest and had a field day passing some unsavoury remarks about it. One hopes the debate on this has been put to rest once for all. There are a lot of states going to election next year. Will BJP now have the courage to go to polls alone in Punjab and dump Akali Dal which has been corruption personified and a thorn in the development of the state for nearly two terms? Can BJP play its cards well and convince people in Uttar Pradesh to bring it to power in the state so as to rid it of mis-governance that has been the hallmark of Smajwadi Party. BJP could not have asked for a more opportune time to consolidate its mandate in states going to polls in the near future. Finally, will the government now sit up and review its step motherly approach towards the armed forces of the nation?