Uri In­ci­dent And In­dian Re­sponse

India Strategic - - CONTENTS - By Gen­eral Deepak Kapoor (Retd)

NEW DELHI. Honey­well has a long- stand­ing his­tory in In­dia, with its pres­ence in the coun­try trac­ing back to the 1930s. All four of Honey­well’s strate­gic busi­ness groups have a pres­ence in In­dia, in­clud­ing aerospace; per­for­mance ma­te­ri­als & tech­nolo­gies; safety & pro­duc­tiv­ity so­lu­tions and home & build­ing tech­nolo­gies.

It is in­deed sad that 19 brave sol­diers who were de­ployed at Uri in J&K to carry out the na­tional duty of pro­tect­ing the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the coun­try were mar­tyred in a sur­prise pre dawn at­tack on Septem­ber 18. The role of Pak­istani ‘deep state’ (the army and ISI) in plan­ning, co­or­di­nat­ing, sup­port­ing and ex­e­cut­ing it covertly is not in doubt, given their pol­icy of bleed­ing In­dia with ‘a thou­sand cuts’ in the on­go­ing proxy war in the state which they started in 1989.

The pe­riod post this de­plorable at­tack saw the me­dia, both elec­tronic and print, go­ing to town in try­ing to outdo each other in de­bat­ing ways and means to re­tal­i­ate and pun­ish Pak­istan. The TV chan­nels, in their ef­forts to im­prove TRP rat­ings spewed venom and mean­ing­ful de­bates gave way to shout­ing down Pak­istani pan­el­lists. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties tried to out­shine each other in bran­dish­ing their na­tion­al­is­tic cre­den­tials to gain pop­u­lar sup­port. Dur­ing all this ca­coph­ony, the na­tional lead­er­ship and the mil­i­tary worked hand in glove to fine tune an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse.

The pre­cise, well cal­cu­lated, metic­u­lously planned and finely ex­e­cuted re­sponse by the In­dian Army in the form of a se­ries of sur­gi­cal strikes across the Line of Con­trol (LOC) in the early hours of Septem­ber 29 sur­prised Pak­istan and caused ex­ten­sive da­m­age. The In­dian Army needs to be com­pli­mented for this com­mend­able ac­tion. Pak­istan’s re­ac­tion, as ex­pected, was to re­treat in to the de­nial mode, its usual pas­time!

While the dust is still set­tling down on both these in­ci­dents and elec­tronic and print me­dia are in high gear de­bat­ing fu­ture con­tours of the turn of events, we need to in­tro­spect why the Uri in­ci­dent and its re­sponse were in­evitable.

The proxy war in J&K has been cycli­cal in na­ture. Right since its start in 1989, ev­ery spurt in ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties has been fol­lowed by as­cen­dancy of the se­cu­rity forces wherein the ter­ror­ists, hav­ing suf­fered sub­stan­tial ca­su­al­ties, have been forced to lie low re­sult­ing in rel­a­tive peace for a few years. There­after, a fresh spurt has taken place with full sup­port of the Pak­istani deep state in terms of fire power, for­eign mil­i­tants, en­hanced in­fil­tra­tion, in­creased fund­ing, pro­longed ex­ploita­tion of com­mu­nal fault lines and se­ries of co­er­cive ac­tions. Thence, stepped up op­er­a­tions by se­cu­rity forces have brought the sit­u­a­tion again un­der con­trol af­ter a few years.

The in­tense in­sur­gency pe­riod of 1989-1997 was fol­lowed by a rel­a­tively peace­ful time be­tween 1998 and 2002. Post that, in­sur­gency in­ten­si­fied up to 2005, only to be brought un­der con­trol by 2007. This pe­riod also saw shrink­age of the in­sur­gency to ar­eas North of Pir Pan­jal Range, pre­dom­i­nantly cov­er­ing the Srinagar Val­ley. Up to 2010, sit­u­a­tion was sta­ble when the stone pelt­ing bri­gade took over to cre­ate un­rest. The se­cu­rity forces sta­bilised the sit­u­a­tion by 2012 and since then peace flour­ished till it was rudely dis­turbed post Burhan Wani’s elim­i­na­tion in July 2016. To ex­ploit the tur­bu­lent sit­u­a­tion in the Val­ley and start trou­ble afresh, it was ax­iomatic that the Pak­istani deep state en­gi­neers a strike against se­cu­rity forces at an ap­pro­pri­ate place of their choice.

From the above, it also emerges that Pak Army is very keen to keep the Kash­mir caul­dron boil­ing, come what may. Con­tin­u­ous sup­port to the proxy war en­ables Pak army to main­tain and sus­tain a dom­i­nant po­si­tion within the Pak polity by pro­ject­ing it as the sole in­sti­tu­tion ca­pa­ble of ful­fill­ing the Pak­istani dream of wrest­ing back J&K from In­dia. Thus, ir­re­spec­tive of the regime in power, it is the Pak army which calls the shots in dic­tat­ing Pak­istan’s In­dia pol­icy.

Se­condly, there was a need for Pak­istan to show sup­port and sol­i­dar­ity with the ag­i­ta­tions in the Val­ley. A ma­jor suc­cess­ful

strike against the In­dian Army was re­quired. In the two weeks prior to the Uri in­ci­dent, there were five con­sec­u­tive at­tempts at in­fil­tra­tion in dif­fer­ent sec­tors with the aim of caus­ing ca­su­al­ties but all these were liq­ui­dated. Of the places tried, Uri fit­ted in well with their plans. Uri town is lo­cated just 10-15 km from the LOC and can be ap­proached from POK through mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions i.e. from Ha­jipir axis, Salam­abad Nala and Chakothi-Uri axis. It is pos­si­ble to in­fil­trate, tra­verse the dis­tance and launch mean­ing­ful at­tacks in and around Uri town within one night. In­ci­den­tally, Uri has been on the re­ceiv­ing end many times since on­set of proxy war, in­clud­ing shoot­ing down of the then com­man­der Uri Bri­gade in 1995.

Thirdly, there was a link­age be­tween dis­tur­bances in the Val­ley and the Uri in­ci­dent. The strike at Uri was de­signed to de­pict a pic­ture of chaos and to­tal break­down in J& K to the world at large. This suited Pak­istani at­tempts to in­ter­na­tion­alise the Kash­mir is­sue afresh con­jointly with their diplo­matic push.

Fourthly, com­pared to other parts of the Val­ley, Uri and its sur­round­ing ar­eas are by and large pro In­dia. The re­lief and suc­cour pro­vided to the in­hab­i­tants by the se­cu­rity forces post the Oc­to­ber 2005 earth­quake is still talked about in glow­ing terms. In fact, they ag­i­tated for In­dian Army rather than the state govern­ment to dis­trib­ute the earth­quake re­lief ma­te­rial. Their above av­er­age turnout dur­ing suc­ces­sive elec­tions since 1989 is clearly in­dica­tive of their sup­port for the In­dian Union. By tar­get­ing Uri, the Pak­istani deep state was try­ing to strike at this sup­port base in an at­tempt to use co­er­cion to con­vert them.

Sim­i­larly, the In­dian re­sponse to the ag­gres­sion at Uri was in­evitable. A num­ber of times in the past, when­ever our sol­diers be­came vic­tims of such un­pro­voked acts, at the lo­cal level in a lim­ited area, the In­dian Army has launched puni­tive strikes in re­tal­i­a­tion. Such ac­tions are es­sen­tial and im­por­tant along an ac­tive LOC to keep the morale of the troops high in main­tain­ing a dom­i­nant stance. It is a mat­ter of reg­i­men­tal ‘iz­zat’ not to let the ad­ver­sary get away with­out ret­ri­bu­tion.

How­ever, it is to the credit of the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion that this time the In­dian Army’s re­sponse to the Uri ou­trage in cross­ing of the LOC at a num­ber of places along a wide frontage of ap­prox­i­mately 250 km had the firm ap­proval and back­ing of the govern­ment. This is un­prece­dented and has buoyed up not only the army but even the public at large, some of whom still can­not be­lieve it. Peo­ple re­call that cross­ing of the LOC was not even per­mit­ted dur­ing the Kargil War in 1999!

Aside from the puni­tive an­gle, there was also a pre emp­tive as­pect to the In­dian Army’s re­sponse. The re­sponse was de­signed to strike at those ter­ror­ist launch pads along the LOC in POK where a large num­ber of ter­ror­ists had been gath­ered for in­fil­tra­tion in to J&K to carry out ter­ror­ist acts. By launch­ing pre emp­tive strikes against seven of these launch pads, the In­dian Army was able to pre­vent mas­sive death and de­struc­tion within the coun­try.

Few other as­pects made the sur­gi­cal strikes qual­i­ta­tively dif­fer­ent. One, af­ter be­ing ex­e­cuted, Pak­istan and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity were in­formed about them un­like clan­des­tine ter­ror­ist acts car­ried out by the Pak­istani deep state where per­pe­tra­tors take re­course to de­ni­a­bil­ity post oc­cur­rence. Two, for the first time for­mally cross­ing the LOC, the In­dian Army has shifted from a purely de­fen­sive pos­ture to an ‘of­fen­sive de­fence’ stance. This has re­sulted in en­hance­ment of its options en­abling it to carry out the fight to the ad­ver­sary’s ter­ri­tory in self de­fence. Three, a syn­er­gis­tic ap­proach adopted by the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion com­bin­ing mil­i­tary, diplo­matic and eco­nomic power of the na­tion has ex­posed the chinks in the Pak­istani ar­mour and iso­lated it re­gion­ally and glob­ally. Ter­ror­ism and nu­clear am­bi­gu­ity have gen­er­ated a de­gree of dis­trust about Pak­istani claims of it be­ing a peace loving and re­spon­si­ble na­tion.

For far too long In­dia has bled by the pol­icy of ‘a thou­sand cuts’. The end of proxy war is nowhere in sight. A change of strat­egy was over­due. Thus, if Uri was in­evitable, the re­sponse it has gen­er­ated is equally in­evitable. It sig­nals a par­a­digm shift in our think­ing on how to deal with such sit­u­a­tions in the fu­ture.

The ba­sic ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s mind is what would hap­pen next. Af­ter all, the ac­tion re­ac­tion syn­drome can keep go­ing up the es­ca­la­tory lad­der and cre­ate fur­ther prob­lems since both are nu­clear pow­ers. In­dia, hav­ing given a pro­fes­sional re­sponse, has main­tained dig­ni­fied si­lence. The ball is in Pak­istan’s court. It can take heed and stop the proxy war. Or it may re­sort to re­tal­i­a­tion for which we in In­dia need to be pre­pared.

Re­tal­i­a­tion can be ei­ther along the LOC in J&K or in our hin­ter­land where a ma­jor city may be tar­geted. The In­dian Army is quite ca­pa­ble of re­spond­ing to any ag­gres­sion in J&K. Ter­ror­ist at­tack at Bara­mulla and our re­sponse on Oc­to­ber 3 are in­dica­tive of our re­solve to de­fend our­selves res­o­lutely. For meet­ing a threat to our hin­ter­land, the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies as well as po­lice and para­mil­i­tary forces have to work harder and co­or­di­nate their ef­forts with the mil­i­tary.

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