India Today - - NEWS - (Aroon Purie)

The Septem­ber 29 sur­gi­cal strikes by In­dia have changed the dy­nam­ics of the com­pli­cated In­dia-Pak­istan re­la­tion­ship. The gov­ern­ment not only au­tho­rised the Spe­cial Forces at­tacks on ter­ror launch­pads in Pak­istanoc­cu­pied Kash­mir but pub­licly ac­knowl­edged them, mark­ing a strate­gic de­par­ture from its con­ven­tion of turn­ing the other cheek. The new game­plan of of­fen­sive de­fence—the prin­ci­ple of be­ing proac­tive rather than pas­sive when attacked to re­gain the strate­gic ad­van­tage and cramp an op­po­nent’s abil­ity to launch a counter-of­fen­sive—has been met with a huge roar of ap­proval across the coun­try and even from op­po­si­tion par­ties.

But the pol­icy of mak­ing it un­af­ford­able for Pak­istan to in­dulge in ter­ror as war by other means has huge im­pli­ca­tions and high costs. Pak­istan’s ri­poste for the sur­gi­cal strike was an at­tack on an army camp in Bara­mulla on Oc­to­ber 4, leav­ing a BSF soldier dead. In­dia is well aware of the con­se­quences and needs to pre­pare for them. The at­tack on an air base in Pathankot on Jan­uary 2 and on an army camp in Uri in Septem­ber 18 exposed the chinks in our ar­mour.

So, how pre­pared is In­dia for a long-drawn-out campaign? There are two as­pects to it—para­mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness, which in­volves perime­ter de­fence, and the abil­ity to launch and sus­tain a war by the armed forces. The counter in­fil­tra­tion fence, which stretches 540 km along the Line of Con­trol, is al­ready a decade old. It has re­duced in­fil­tra­tion to a great ex­tent, but it needs to be tech­no­log­i­cally aug­mented. Main­te­nance of tech­nol­ogy is not one of our strengths. In the Pathankot at­tack, ter­ror­ists breached the in­ter­na­tional border in Pun­jab at pre­cisely those points where BSF sen­sors were not work­ing. War readi­ness also de­mands be­ing on per­ma­nent red alert. In Uri, the as­sault took place when bat­tal­ions were off-guard dur­ing a change of com­mand.

In Jan­uary, De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar set up a com­mit­tee, headed by a re­tired Lt Gen­eral, to in­quire into the se­cu­rity lapses in Pathankot. The com­mit­tee sub­mit­ted a com­pre­hen­sive report to the min­istry in May this year, and is the first of its kind to talk about the se­cu­rity of army, navy and air force bases. Four months have passed; Uri and Bara­mulla have hap­pened, but the report has not been im­ple­mented, for rea­sons best known to those who sit com­fort­ably en­sconced in South Block while our vul­ner­a­ble sol­diers look death in the eye ev­ery day.

The cover story, by Ex­ec­u­tive Editor San­deep Un­nithan, ex­plores why In­dia made the strike and what lies ahead. He de­scribes, in a sep­a­rate piece, what re­ally hap­pened on the night of Septem­ber 28, when a hun­dred-odd elite troops struck mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions across the LoC. The cover pack­age also dis­cusses whether such sur­gi­cal strikes will be the new nor­mal. Army of­fi­cials pri­vately ac­knowl­edge at least two cross-border spe­cial forces raids in 2008 and 2011. How­ever, th­ese were au­tho­rised by North­ern Army com­mand, in response to spe­cific action by Pak­istan army Border Action Teams, and not pub­li­cised.

The tragedy is that the real war that In­dia and Pak­istan should be wag­ing, as Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi said re­cently, is the one against poverty, un­em­ploy­ment, il­lit­er­acy, in­fant mor­tal­ity and ma­ter­nal deaths. That, un­for­tu­nately, is a far cry from what Pak­istan seems to have in mind. We now anx­iously wait to see the con­se­quences of In­dia’s bold new blue­print. Ul­ti­mately, war is no solution. In­dia and Pak­istan have to re­solve their dif­fer­ences through dia­logue—war is a means, not an end. Skilled diplo­macy can­not be re­placed by boom­ing guns. Whether through mil­i­tary re­tal­i­a­tion or by iso­lat­ing it as a global out­law, Pak­istan has to be made to re­alise that there are costs to its spon­sor­ship of ter­ror­ism. A con­stant state of low-in­ten­sity con­flict can only bleed both In­dia and Pak­istan by a thou­sand cuts. Dia­logue has to be re­sumed to solve our dif­fer­ences peace­fully and for both coun­tries to get down to the busi­ness of pro­vid­ing good gov­er­nance to their cit­i­zens. That’s what peo­ple re­ally care about.


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