India Today - - COVER STORY - (Aroon Purie)

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.

Fe­bru­ary 1990

June 2002

June 2016

May 1982

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