Years of in­de­ci­sion and in­ac­tion come to an end with a sur­prise

Will help dis­pel sense of de­spair that gripped In­dia over its failure to re­spond to Pak

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - NATION - BRAHMA CHELLANEY

In­dia has fi­nally bro­ken out of years of par­a­lytic in­de­ci­sion and in­ac­tion on Pak­istan’s proxy war by stag­ing a swift, sur­gi­cal mil­i­tary strike across the Line of Con­trol — a line it did not cross even dur­ing the 1999 Kargil War. Although a lim­ited but un­prece­dented ac­tion, in which In­dian para­troop­ers de­stroyed mul­ti­ple ter­ror­ist launch­pads, it will help to dis­pel the sense of de­spair that had gripped In­dia over its pro­longed failure to re­spond to se­rial Pak­istan­backed ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

At the same time, the ac­tion rep­re­sents a loss of face for Pak­istan’s all-pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, which was quick to deny any such strike. The de­nial, how­ever, will carry lit­tle cred­i­bil­ity even within Pak­istan, given the mil­i­tary’s long record of re­fus­ing to own up to its own ac­tions — from send­ing raiders into Jammu and Kash­mir in 1947 and stag­ing Op­er­a­tion Gi­bral­tar in 1965 to send­ing light in­fantry sol­diers into Kargil in 1999. When the Pak­istani mil­i­tary even de­nies train­ing and arm­ing ter­ror­ists for cross-bor­der mis­sions, how can it ad­mit that In­dian para­troop­ers tar­geted ter­ror­ist launch­pads it main­tains?

Still, a one-off sur­gi­cal at­tack can do lit­tle to help re­form the Pak­istani mil­i­tary’s con­duct or de­ter its rogue In­ter-ser­vices In­tel­li­gence agency from stag­ing more ter­ror­ist strikes on In­dian tar­gets. The critical ques­tion to ask is whether In­dia, hav­ing shaken off its dif­fi­dence, will be will­ing to stage more raids by its spe­cial forces across the LOC — not im­me­di­ately, but in the months to come, so as to fore­stall ter­ror­ist at­tacks by keep­ing the Pak­istani mil­i­tary off bal­ance.

How­ever, the proxy war by ter­ror is un­likely to end with­out In­dia im­pos­ing sig­nif­i­cant costs di­rectly on the Pak­istani mil­i­tary and the Pak­istani State. Mil­i­tar­ily, that is a chal­leng­ing task.

In gen­eral, the pur­pose of any ma­jor mil­i­tary ac­tion ought to be twofold: To in­flict un­bear­able costs on the enemy; and, if the ac­tion es­ca­lates to a fullfledged war, to de­ci­sively de­feat the foe on the bat­tle­field in or­der to im­pose peace on it on one’s own terms.

The cur­rent mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion is such that In­dia can­not have full con­fi­dence in achiev­ing these ob­jec­tives. For ex­am­ple, any ma­jor mil­i­tary ac­tion needs the sur­prise el­e­ment to take the enemy un­awares and gain a sig­nif­i­cant early ad­vance. With Pak­istan in a state of full com­bat readi­ness af­ter script­ing the Uri at­tack, there is no sur­prise el­e­ment that can be ex­ploited by In­dia to launch a ma­jor of­fen­sive.

In these cir­cum­stances, ap­ply­ing sus­tained, mul­ti­pronged pres­sure on the enemy’s vul­ner­a­ble points to in­flict pain and pun­ish­ment through eco­nomic, diplo­matic, ri­par­ian and po­lit­i­cal in­stru­ments and spe­cial forces is a bet­ter op­tion than wag­ing an open war that might not pro­duce a de­ci­sive re­sult.

That In­dia man­aged to stage a dar­ing cross-bor­der raid de­spite Pak­istan’s full mil­i­tary alert­ness is a re­minder that smart ap­pli­ca­tion of mil­i­tary force yields bet­ter re­sults than a heavy-handed, knee-jerk mil­i­tary re­sponse.

Make no mis­take: In­dia’s fight to tame a scofflaw Pak­istan will be long and hard. The ten­dency to seek quick re­sults must be es­chewed. In­deed, the big­gest enemy of In­dia’s goals has been the failure to main­tain a con­sis­tent Pak­istan pol­icy. Rhetoric is no sub­sti­tute for clear-eyed pol­icy and de­ter­rent ac­tion.

To­day, from re­view­ing the lop­sided In­dus Waters Treaty to stag­ing the raid across the LOC, In­dia is sig­nalling that enough is enough and that it will do what­ever it takes to beat back Pak­istan’s ter­ror­ism on­slaught. In­dia must use ev­ery lever of lever­age and co­er­cion in a re­lent­less, all-out silent war to bring Pak­istan to heel.


Sol­diers at the bor­der-clos­ing cer­e­mony at Wa­gah.


In­dia did not cross the Line of Con­trol even dur­ing the 1999 Kargil War.

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