A lot has been said and written in the aftermath of the Uri incident in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in last few days. The government has been on the receiving end for both its overall approach on Kashmir as also for its policy on engaging with Pakistan. There have been passionate appeals for a befitting reply in the form of a military action since many feel that as a nation we have been too soft in dealing with Pakistan over the years. Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, must be a worried man as some of his own over the top rhetoric in the recent past on issues related to Pakistan and terrorism seems to have come back to haunt him.
There is no doubt that Pakistan has stepped up its cross border activities both in the valley as well as along the Line of Control (LOC) over the last two years. Add to this the well planned attacks in Jammu and Gurdaspur in 2015 followed by Pathankot and now Uri, one cannot but summarise that India has been caught on the wrong foot on most occasions. The masterminds of terror in Pakistan – Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Salahuddin – have been very active to lend momentum to such anti India activities. It goes without saying that they have the tacit support of Pakistan’s establishment, both military and civilian. But then this was expected once Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led government came to power at the centre. To some extent BJP and some of its leaders do wear their nationalism on their sleeve and have no hesitation to flaunt it from time to time which results in some passionate rhetoric, particularly when the subject relates to Pakistan. This is certainly very different than the placid approach adopted by earlier Congress led governments on the same subject. So it does not surprise anyone if the common man today demands an effective military response to teach Pakistan a lesson or when political parties like Congress, Left Front and Janta Dal (U) mock the government in such times to score a few political brownie points.
India may have gained some diplomatic advantage over the last one year in international arena but as is well known, that is not likely to deter either Pakistan or the terror organisations to act against India. This is primarily because Pakistan government has no choice but to keep the nation focussed on India since that is what keeps it in power and its misdeeds under wraps. Notwithstanding this, India has to step up its diplomatic campaign for further isolation of Pakistan in international circles. By raising the Baluchistan issue India has taken a lead in making things more difficult for Pakistan as also has given a fillip to the Baluchi independence movement. It is in our interest to ensure that the struggle for freedom in Baluchistan picks up momentum and gains greater recognition internationally. Engaging with Afghanistan and Iran constructively will also pay handsome dividends in isolating Pakistan. Next by staking a rightful claim on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), India has done something that should have been the focus of our Kashmir policy from day one. Unfortunately over last six decades India’s foreign policy hardly ever focused on POK which resulted in most of the world taking it for granted that POK was part and parcel of Pakistan while the dispute related mainly to the Indian held part of J&K. The truth is that whole of J&K, including POK, acceded to India and past Indian governments erred massively by not laying strong claims on territory held by Pakistan. Possibly POK may not have been a safe haven for anti-India terror groups if India had played its cards correctly in the past. But that is history and it will take some doing by the present government to correct this wrong. Given India’s successful democratic credentials and emerging economic might, while this may be difficult, it may not be impossible.
The other question that is engaging most minds is the kind of military options India needs to consider against Pakistan to avenge incidents like Pathankot and Uri attacks. In this regard it may be worthwhile to remember that this is not a ‘tit for tat’ game. Any punitive military response has to be well thought out, hard hitting and rapid in nature with a nearly hundred percent guarantee for success. Well thought out implies that it must cause pain and make Pakistan government think many times before they think of engaging any target on Indian soil. Hard hitting means that the methodology and resources used should be such that complete destruction of the selected target is ensured. Lastly any such response cannot be allowed to linger on or develop into a stalemate, it has to be mounted in quick time and completed in shortest possible time that may be measured in terms of a few hours to may be a day or two at the most. If such missions are successful, they pay rich dividends but it is also equally true that failures can result in unmanageable losses. Therefore there is a need for a near fail proof plan backed by more than adequate resources. That the Indian military, including Air Force and Navy, are capable of carrying out such tasks is a given. The limiting factor, if any, is the equipment and technology required for carrying out such missions.
Unfortunately in last two decades Indian governments have failed the military in equipping them adequately to increase their effectiveness. The period from 2004 to 2014 was particularly conspicuous with a total lack of political will in this regard that is now costing the nation dear. Today military lacks equipment and resources not only for such highly specialised missions but even for a conventional war. In all probability it is this hard truth that prevents the government of the day from taking any bold decisions when it comes to a military response. Is it any wonder that the government is working overtime for past year and a half to address some of the critical shortages of all three services?
Any military response for the sake of appeasing public or to create an impression of being strong in will to live up to past rhetoric will be a foolhardy step. One sincerely hopes the government does not fall prey to such short sighted misadventures that may prove counterproductive to the diplomatic offensive that has been put in place to isolate Pakistan. As things stand our best bet lies in scaling up efforts in the initiatives already taken and enlarging the diplomatic offensive to include economic and cultural sanctions to make things more difficult for Pakistan on various fronts. It is no secret that in case of any incident along the LOC, local army units invariably give a measured response to the enemy. It is time this response is made a little harsher by design till our military is ready for more serious targets inside the enemy territory. It will be in fitness of things to set a deadline of 12 – 18 months to develop full capabilities to neutralise selected targets across the border as part of well planned and equally well executed punitive missions when required in the overall interest of the nation and to drive home a point in the enemy camp. Last but not the least let those in authority, military top brass in particular, refrain from talking about such actions or missions in the media or boasting about the capabilities of our forces.
A lot is said about the nuclear capability of Pakistan and that they may use it against India in case it opts for a military response. While such a remote possibility cannot be discounted, one should not forget that India too has adequate nuclear weapon stockpile to counter any such threat. Perhaps our delivery capability is even better than that of Pakistan in this regard. The size of our country too is a huge advantage over our adversary. What is important here is that as a nation we cannot limit our options because of the fear of a nuclear strike by Pakistan. If that were to happen then India will always be at the receiving end and initiative will always rest with Pakistan. Surely this is not desirable and the earlier we call this bluff by Pakistan, the better it will be for us.
Pakistan owes it survival economically to USA and Saudi Arabia, two nations that provide it with money under various garbs to further their own vested interests. It is this that needs attention of the Indian government on priority. While Saudi Arabia does it mainly for spreading its own brand of Islam in the region, USA does it for many different reasons which include using Pakistan’s territory for its strategic needs in the region, keeping its own arms industry ticking, ensuring a continual arms race between India and Pakistan, slowing down India’s economic growth and last but not the least in pursuing its big daddy policy of interfering in other nation’s affairs. India’s growing cooperation with USA on various fronts and the sizeable influence of Indian Diaspora in USA are the two tools that India needs to exploit to limit US financial assistance to Pakistan. China’s interests in Pakistan are more selfish than for any genuine concern for the country. If the economic corridor project is threatened by disturbances in Baluchistan or tense situation in parts of J&K, chances are Chinese will be left with no option but to go slow or abandon the same.
It will be prudent to engage the civil society in Kashmir and work towards an amicable solution within the realms of the Indian constitutions and not to allow the situation to worsen. For any success in this venture it will be necessary to deal with the separatist leadership in the valley with a firm hand where either they fall in line or suffer the ignominy of being declared anti national and dealt with accordingly. The same approach should be adopted for other anti national elements in the region. The recent rebuff to separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani by the youth in the valley wherein they applied for government jobs in police by the thousands, despite his call to shun the same, should be seen as an indication of the mood of the public and authorities must build on the same with other confidence building measures. The overall mood in the valley will not change overnight and patience may have to be exercised by all concerned before perceptible changes are seen. If the need arises, the government should even consider radical solutions like dividing the state in three regions to isolate the troubled valley area and giving it greater autonomy. Difficult situations invariably call for even more difficult decisions. A peaceful environment within the Kashmir valley will always be an added strength for India to give a befitting military response to Pakistan on its own terms whenever one is needed.