Army’s op­er­a­tion proves Modi’s abil­ity to spring sur­prises

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - NATION - DK Singh

NEW DELHI: Trust Prime Minister Naren­dra Modi to spring a sur­prise when you ex­pect it the least. Just when it ap­peared the NDA govern­ment was ex­plor­ing non-mil­i­tary re­sponse to the Septem­ber 18 ter­ror strike on the Uri army base, the armed forces launched sur­gi­cal strikes on ter­ror “launch­pads”, or camps used to fa­cil­i­tate in­fil­tra­tion of ter­ror­ists, across the bor­der in Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (POK) on Wed­nes­day night. It’s a first since Pak­istan started ex­port­ing ter­ror to In­dia in the 1990s.

The im­pli­ca­tions and ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this gam­bit are not clear yet. But the move un­der­scores — yet again — Modi’s risk-tak­ing abil­ity that has been the defin­ing fea­ture of his diplo­matic ini­tia­tives as well.

“Modi may not fol­low a script. But he works to a logic. Look at the Pak­istan pol­icy. First he tried to be friendly with the neigh­bour. When he failed, he knew that he had to live up to his im­age of a strong leader who can­not let ter­ror­ists keep on tar­get­ing In­dia. So he fol­lows a logic and his po­lit­i­cal in­stinct,” said for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Lalit Mans­ingh.

Few ex­pected Modi to in­vite Pak­istani pre­mier Nawaz Sharif, along with other Saarc heads, to his swear­ing-in cer­e­mony in May 2014.

“Bomb dhamakon mein baatcheet ki awaaz band ho jaati hai,” Modi had told his Pak­istani coun­ter­part the next day of the cer­e­mony. Sharif agreed and pro­posed the re­sump­tion of bi­lat­eral talks.

That started what the for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment de­scribed two lead­ers that sur­vived many ups and downs in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions — un­til Sharif called slain mil­i­tant com­man­der Burhan Wani a mar­tyr and ded­i­cated Pak­istan’s In­de­pen­dence Day on Au­gust 14 to the free­dom move­ment in Kash­mir.

But the pre­ced­ing two years were marked by de­ci­sions that were de­scribed var­i­ously — and para­dox­i­cally — as “knee-jerk”, “bold” and “out-of-box”. New Delhi’s de­ci­sion to call off for­eign sec­re­tary-level talks in 2014, af­ter Pak­istani high com­mis­sioner Ab­dul Ba­sit met Hur­riyat lead­ers, was un­ex­pected. Again, few an­tic­i­pated the Nsa-level meet­ing in Bangkok in De­cem­ber 2015, which came barely a week af­ter Modi-sharif meet­ing in Paris on De­cem­ber 1. The coun­try was in for an­other sur­prise last Christ­mas when Modi de­cided to make a stopover at Sharif’s farm­house in La­hore on his way back from Rus­sia via Afghanistan.

It’s not that Modi has re­served his sur­prises for Pak­istan only.

No­body ex­pected the PM to give a pub­lic re­cep­tion to vis­it­ing Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in Gu­jarat, the first since 1962 war. NITI Aayog vice-chair­man Arvind Pana­gariya, Modi’s Sherpa at G 20 meet in China, said early this month that In­dia would not be able to rat­ify the Paris Cli­mate agree­ment by the end of this year. Modi took ev­ery­one by sur­prise again, declar­ing at a BJP meet­ing in Kozhikode that it would be rat­i­fied on Oc­to­ber 2.

The list of such sur­prises is long. Many op­po­si­tion lead­ers might claim to pre­dict Modi, the politi­cian, but could some­one say the same about Modi the Prime

The sur­gi­cal strike against ter­ror­ist camps along the Line of Con­trol (LOC) an­nounced by the Direc­tor Gen­eral of Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions (DGMO) has con­firmed what had been an­tic­i­pated over the last few days — Team Modi would ‘re­spond’ in an ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner to the enor­mity of the Uri ter­ror at­tack.

This strike was a lim­ited counter-ter­ror op­er­a­tion with a clear set of sig­nals em­bed­ded in it — and some of them can be de-coded from the press brief­ing by Lt. Gen Ran­bir Singh.

As the phrase sur­gi­cal-strike sug­gests, this was a pre­cise in­ci­sion, with a lim­ited ob­jec­tive — namely that of neu­tral­is­ing the ter­ror­ist pads that were likely to be used for strikes against tar­gets in In­dia. It is un­der­stood that cred­i­ble in­tel­li­gence had been ob­tained over the last week that alerted the lo­cal com­man­ders about what was afoot. This was con­veyed up the chain and a res­o­lute de­ci­sion had to be taken by the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship.

At the press brief­ing it was against ter­ror in­fra­struc­ture along the LOC — and that the ob­jec­tive had been re­alised.

Thus one can in­fer that the ob­jec­tive was neu­tral­is­ing ter­ror as­sets — and that there was no tan­gi­ble threat to Pak­istan’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity — much less its sovereignty. Con­cur­rently, it was added by the DGMO that he had in­formed his Pak­istani coun­ter­part — mean­ing thereby that there was a LOC spe­cific com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­col that had been ad­hered to.

The nu­anced sig­nal here

to not wish to es­ca­late the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion. As Lt. Gen­eral Ran­bir Singh stated, there were no plans for any fur­ther op­er­a­tions. The target was an im­mi­nent ter­ror threat and this had been neu­tralised by In­dia.

The in­fer­ence that fol­lows is that the onus for re­straint or es­ca­la­tion is now on Rawalpindi —the Gen­eral Head­quar­ters (GHQ) of the Pak­istani mil­i­tary. If Rawalpindi wishes to be part of the re­gional and global ef­fort against ter­ror, this may be an op­por­tu­nity to be­gin the proc other neigh­bours who have been tar­geted by these ter­ror groups.

If on the other hand, Pak­istan seeks ret­ri­bu­tion by con­ven­tional mil­i­tary power, or other means in­clud­ing us­ing sleeper cells/ter­ror mod­ules — In­dia must be pre­pared for dif­fi­cult days in the near future.

How­ever, such an ac­tion would also fur­ther tar­nish Rawalpindi’s pro­file as a spon­sor and sup­porter of ter­ror and the se­lec­tive ap­proach it pur­sues. Be­sides In­dia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have a sim­i­lar anxi

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