FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Of all the problems that never seem to go away in independent India, the most tricky one is dealing with Pakistan. Every few years, we follow a cycle of peace missions and summits, which brings us to the cusp of a breakthrough, only to be thwarted because of some transgression by the multiple power centres that hold sway across the border. Inevitably, we reach the brink of war, our foreign policy experts and defence analysts enumerating, yet again, the military options we could exercise. As you can see from the four covers—one from each decade—the mechanics may change but the nature of the problem remains the same.
If it was the Parliament attack and the Mumbai terror attacks that brought us to the doorstep of an armed conflict in the 2000s, this time it is the Pathankot attack, followed by Pakistan’s role in fanning the unrest in Kashmir, and now the attack on the Uri military camp in which 19 soldiers lost their lives, which have brought matters to a head. The fact that Pakistan and India are both nuclear powers makes the prospect of a war even more dangerous because the possibility of escalation by an unstable state is one that India does not want to grapple with.
There are, however, options that do not take the two countries to a nuclear threshold but could make Pakistan realise that it cannot sponsor terrorism with impunity. There is the question of raising international pressure through forums such as the UN. There is the possibility of exercising strict sanctions on Pakistan’s trade partners in a bid to squeeze it economically. And there are multiple military options—from strikes across the Line of Control to surgical strikes on key defence installations and covert operations in which key targets, such as the 26/11 masterminds, are taken out. Another option to consider, now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already brought up Balochistan, is to stir trouble in the embattled province and give Pakistan a taste of its own medicine.
In the midst of the war-mongering by politicians, trapped in their own rhetoric, and sadly the media too, these options have to be evaluated with a cool head as several of these can be counterproductive in the extreme. Our cover story, by Group Editorial Director (Publishing) Raj Chengappa and Executive Editor Sandeep Unnithan, goes into the mechanics of each of the scenarios, weighing the pros and cons, to answer the most important question: what will work? We also look closely at what happened at Uri and at the intelligence failure that allowed a sensitive target to be attacked by heavily armed terrorists.
India must consider the consequences of all the possibilities because, unlike Pakistan, we are a nation on the rise. We have much to lose. We must not, in a fit of national rage, rush into an armed conflict, and put in jeopardy our development agenda. The conflict must bring the best out of our public figures. It’s not the time to taunt the ruling party with their past utterances. The need of the hour is bipartisanship and for leaders to come together, in spite of their conflicting political affiliations, to work on a common agenda. A blame game serves no purpose. In a country where history keeps repeating itself, we could perhaps start by keeping political expediency away from national security. And remember, revenge is a dish best served cold.