Saturday, 1 October 2016

#IndiaStrikesBack - Part 2 | Implications

India’s retaliation in the form of surgical strike is a watershed moment in India’s foreign policy with Pakistan. This has multiple far-reaching implications and long term ramifications not only on our foreign policy, but also as a growing economic power. Let’s, delve into each one of these aspects and dissect the same.

1. Indian retaliation will now become the benchmark in future dealings

A clear shift in policy with respect to India’s approach in dealing with the menace of terrorism emanating from Pakistan’s so-called non-state actors - The Policy of Offensive Defense.

Despite conducting surgical strikes across terror camps of Naga militants in Myanmar last year, India till date did not consider surgical strikes as a viable option against Pakistan based terror groups, expecting rising escalation. This encouraged Pakistan to continue with such attacks with impunity without the fear of being retaliated. So called India’s “Strategic Restraint” which was basically to do nothing and wait, had boosted their morale to bleed India with their “thousand cuts” policy. The Indian retaliation will now become the benchmark in future dealings. If India doesn’t continue to retaliate in similar fashion against future terrorist adventurism, we will fall weak in the eyes of the terror-bosses and hence need to maintain the onslaught of hitting terror infrastructure hard every time India is attacked – to reinforce the point that there are negative consequences attached in attacking India. There cannot be any half-hearted approach and backing down at this stage. “An eye for an eye” is the motto to be adopted. A lot can be learned from the way Israel has been able to cope with this issue. This is not war-mongering – but leveraging fear to prevent loss of innocent Indian lives for the greater good. It is a shame that India’s military despite being twice the size of Pakistan has been brought to its knees in the past due to poor political will and support. Thankfully, that phase is hopefully a passé.

2. Pakistan’s nuclear sabre-rattling is a farce and will never engage in a conventional war.

Pakistan’s use of proxy is primarily because it can never take on India in a conventional war and sustain. Hence this asymmetric warfare and trying to kill India through thousand cuts. Bring nukes into the picture and it’s a powerful concoction.

After the surgical strikes, the Indian side of International Border and LoC have been cleared of civilian population, expecting a retaliation from Pakistan. The chances are less of engaging into a full-scale war. The reasons are many, one being Pakistan is still in the mode of denial that I have discussed in the next point. Also, Pakistan’s army is tied up in Baluchistan and Zarb-e-Azb operations in Northern Areas. They are stretched thin to fight out a two pronged war, reducing chances of full blown war further. Though Pakistan has very little to lose if ever a full-fledged war arose, still they will not go for a nuclear war with India, primarily because India’s actions were well-calibrated to localise the issue. Escalating this localised conflict from LoC to international border across Punjab and Rajasthan, especially when India is on high alert would be the most foolish action Pakistan can resort to.

Pakistan understands and also realises the fact that it can never win against India in the conventional war; hence designed the Tactical Battlefield Nukes against India’s Cold Start Doctrine. Pakistan also knows and understands that any use of even battle-field tactical nukes will warrant a massive barrage of nukes from Indian side decimating Pakistan completely. Hence, Pakistan’s bluff of nuclear sabre-rattling has been called. Once, this is out in the open, Pakistan has nothing up its sleeve of which India has to fear of directly. China, as a staunch ally of Pakistan brings in a different complexity which I will discuss in another blog post in this series.

As possible outcomes that I envisage, Pakistan will act through its proxies. blaming India for the escalation of attacks without taking responsibilities. It can activate the sleeper cells across India or attack diplomatic missions in other countries like Kabul, Afghanistan to spread the message. It can also initiate cross-border firing with mortar and heavy artillery across LoC and IB to heat up the situation, but still will not escalate it a full blown war, unless India chooses to. It will also go crying to US and UN of blaming India instigating a war and shed crocodile tears of being affected by terrorism itself – as if one expects to sleep with the cobra without being bitten – such naivety.

3. The message is loud and clear – time for talks are over

Indian government has openly acknowledged and announced the fact that Indian Army has conducted cross-border raids, and has laid it bare in front of the world. The Indian DGMO in his press briefing, clearly highlighted that, had it not been pre-empted, there were three dozen terrorists lying in wait to conduct attacks on Indian civilian and military population like Uri and Pathankot.

Previous such sanctions, remained covert activities which were hardly announced by Indian Government – which suited Pakistan so long it’s nefarious activities aren’t impacted and exposed by media coverage. Indian Army PR and Government must be lauded at the well-articulated message that has been sent out clearly stating that the main target of the operations were terrorists and terrorist infrastructure and were not conducted against the Pakistani Army. The few Pakistani jawans killed in the operation raises further questions, for Pakistan to answer, as to why these jawans were colluding with the terrorists at the time when the India’s retaliation took place.

India has clearly demonstrated that we will walk the talk when retaliation is concerned.

4. World is behind India and has hardly condemned Indian Action!

A very important point to note here is the world reaction. Hardly, any country has condemned India’s retaliatory strike. This proves how well India has been able to isolate Pakistan on the diplomatic front; even US has not openly condemned India. This shows the efficacy of Mr. Modi’s continual reach out to heads of foreign governments [those who questions his frequent foreign trips], relaying India’s stance and preparing ground-work for a situation that has now taken place. China’s reaction has been surprisingly guarded. Partly because, if it condemns, it contradicts Pakistan’s stance that it was a cross-border firing and nothing more.

Today, India doesn’t need to defend its actions and the world stands together as one behind India! A remarkable shift in attitude towards India since early 2000, I must say. Even Mr. Tony Blair in an interview with Barkha Dutt, way back in 2010 had acknowledged that the West should have listened to India more during the nineties regarding terrorism and how it has now become a huge headache for the countries that believed themselves reasonably beyond the reach of these Jihadis. 9/11 finally woke them up. Watch the video…

5. Pakistani Army is no longer Sacrosanct

Pakistani Government and Media is in a state of denial, no doubt in shock as well; I would prefer to call it a temporary comatose state. They are in total dis-array, how to respond to this armed retaliation – simply because, they had taken India’s “Strategic Restraint” for granted. There have been 5 different press releases on different lines from Pak Army, Foreign Ministry and other Pakistani government agencies, exposing the fact that there is a no clear ownership in Pakistan on this issue. India was always perceived to be a gentle giant, incapable of retaliating in the fashion it did. Only bravado that India demonstrated according to Pakistan’s foreign policy makers [I mean Pak Army and ISI] was on the diplomatic table. Humiliating defeat and surrender of 93,000 Pak Army soldiers in 1971 war is now a distant memory – one of the largest such PoWs captured ever after WW2.

Acknowledging the surgical strike will be a huge moral blow to Pakistani nation as a whole that diminishes the izzat of Pakistani Army which is highly worshipped and respected. Once it sinks it, there will be a tremendous impact on the psyche of the Pak Army generals and the masses as a whole – that they cannot allow which will shatter the myth that Pak Army is sacrosanct and is now vulnerable.

I can well imagine, the shock and chatter that must have followed after the surgical strikes, amongst Pakistani Terror CEOs Forum; that none of them have so far openly challenged India or promised further strikes. That’s odd, unless one is hit where it hurts the most.

6. Taking advantage of Baloch issue

Mr. Modi has openly urged Balochs, Pashtuns and other groups to ask their local government as to why Pakistan exports terror while India exports Software to the world after 70 years of independence? It will not be improbable to imagine that India fully supports the cause of Baluchistan and other oppressed groups like Pashtuns in Pakistan and will also prefer to go for covert offensive, best held and discussed behind closed doors – with enough plausible deniability in place. It is India’s interest that these issues are fully explored and deftly manipulated so that we have enough aces up our sleeves to deal with this menace emanating from Pakistani non-state actors. Granting asylum to Brahumdugh Bugti would be a good start. If Pakistan can shelter Dawood, we can very well support the genuine cause of Baluch repressions.

There are some analysts who also believe that future of Pakistan’s integrity is bleak. There might a good possibility that the country might break into fractions and republics, if Pakistani Army is weakened. It will be a menace for the world and especially, India and Afghanistan, which has to bear the brunt as it will be playground for different terrorist factions, running amok unless checked. But I have full trust in our NSA Mr. Doval who am sure will look at it from a long term perspective, that works out best; even if it means that geographies and boundaries needs to be altered. There can be a very well thought out plan that is already in action without our knowledge... that is what covert action is supposed to be.

In this complex situation, ownership and safeguard of Pakistani Nuclear Weapons should be kept in mind ensuring that it does not fall into Jihadi hands – that already has an eye on it, in the event of Pakistan collapsing as a state and Pak Army not in a position of control.

7. Indian Covert and Operational Readiness needs to be re-looked

Some news commentators of Indian Media channels, high on jingoism, have baffled me by comparing this surgical strike with the one conducted by US Navy Seals in Abbottabad to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. I was not sure whether to laugh or cry at the suggestion – simply because there are no similarities in the nature and scale. Both were covert actions no doubt – but it ended there. Do not doubt my patriotism and respect for the Indian Army; but some Indian news channels stretched it a bit far. If we conduct a similar operation to nab Dawood Ibrahim from his Lahore or Karachi hide-out and present him to the world, well it will be worthy of the comparison to the Abbottabad Mission.

Though Indian Special Forces were involved, various experts do believe that India hardly possesses capabilities to conduct offensive covert capabilities during peace-time like British SAS or German GSG-9. Our Special Forces are more trained for war-time conflicts in the methodologies and techniques. But this does not undermine in anyway the professionalism and the bravery of our soldiers! Only NSG comes close, in dealing with such operations – but again its more of a reactionary force rather than a pre-emptive force. Only a small section of Frontier Force that RAW operates is capable of performing such damage and carry out sabotage behind enemy lines on terrorist infrastructure to an extent. India should acknowledge this fact and strengthen its doctrine to plug this operational gap.


In the end, it is may not remain a “Zero Sum Game” as many pundits claim; status quo will be maintained, atleast at this stage. But it is possible that politically, Pakistan may again go under an Authoritarian / army rule if the Pak civilian government tries to normalise ties with India, witnessing a coup. It will be a huge win for Narendra Modi led Indian government as it administers a dose of Pakistan’s own medicine on Pakistan.

There will be economic impact, one which has already impacted Sensex in India – tanking by 500 points in a single day. Pakistan has little to lose in this regard.

But this one single strike has a huge implication. Pakistan had dared India to carry out surgical strikes within Pakistan after Myanmar operation and face the wrath of the mighty Pakistani Army. 72 hours have passed, yet to face that wrath. Wrath doesn’t happen in cold blood or when one is at the losing end. Mr. Modi’s single largest legacy may not be his dramatic economic policies; but his diplomatic and foreign policy in dealing with Pakistan and creating a range of options previously unexplored due to lack of political will / courage.

I would like to end this post with the following video. More post in this series to follow soon.

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