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Anshul is a Political Science and Law graduate from the University of Delhi. He is interested in political, legal and policy developments and frequently writes on related themes. You can contact him on anshulkumarpandey [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Uri Attack: Hard Choices before India

In yet another example of cowardly proxy warfare promoted by the Pakistani Army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, four heavily armed militants infiltrated the Army Headquarters in Northern Kashmir's Uri Sector in the Baramulla District and killed 17 soldiers, in one of the worst attacks on the army in 26 years. The Indian Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said
"All four killed were foreign terrorists and had some items with them which had Pakistani markings. Initial reports indicate that the slain terrorists belong to Jaish-e-Mohammed Tanzeem (militant group). Four AK-47 rifles and four under-barrel grenade launchers along with a large number of other war-like stores were recovered from them."

"Days of Strategic Restraint Over" 

The government and the ruling party both issued strong statements, with BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav asserting that the days of strategic restraint were over. He said:
"We feel that the time for strategic restraint is over. India needs to tackle this menace with a firm hand and we need to take proactive measures. That is why Prime Minister has said that perpetrators behind the attack shall not go unpunished. Terrorism is the policy instrument of cowards and in this case the footprint of involvement of our neighbour is all over there. They have been using terrorism as a state policy in the most cowardly manner to attack, maim and kill people, soldiers as well as civilians, in our territory."
The Prime Minister too condemned the attack and in a series of tweets asserted that the perpetrators of the attack will not go unpunished. The Home Minister, who was to visit the United States and Russia, cancelled his trip and called Pakistan a "terrorist state" and appealed for its global isolation.

The statements, coming from both the ruling party and the government, are unparalleled in their severity and point to the increasing escalation in the tensions between both India and Pakistan. Indeed, with an elected leader commanding an absolute majority at the center, India possesses the political will necessary to take swift and punitive action this time against Pakistan, "at a time and place of its choosing".  

The numbers provided by a report in the Economic Times are alarming with regard to infiltration of terrorists from across the border and demonstrate the extent to which India's patience has been stretched thin. For example, in 2011, there were 247 infiltration attempts, followed by 264 attempts in 2012, 277 attempts in 2013 and 221 attempts in 2014. 13 infiltrating terrorists were killed in 2012, followed by 38 in 2013, 52 in 2014 and 37 in 2015.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Ever since it realized that it stands nowhere in terms of conventional warfare when it comes to India, a fact that led to its ignominious defeat in three wars, the Pakistani Army and the ISI seem to have perfected terrorism by non-state actors as a means of sub-conventional warfare, a strategy which has come to be known as "death by a thousand cuts". A dysfunctional and failed state apparatus in Pakistan has meant that while the Pakistani Army and the ISI execute their nefarious plans through their remote control of Pakistani Defense and Foreign Affairs, the civilian leadership is left to deflect the blame, obfuscate the issue and deny any wrongdoing.

In such a scenario, where the real power is exercised by the Army, talks with Pakistani Civilian Leadership are just a hogwash designed to keep India engaged while simultaneously inflicting multiple terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab to stoke militancy and unrest. Parity with India is an obsession in Pakistan and an economically, strategically as well as globally resurgent India does not help their strategic imperatives. In fact, Islamabad has repeatedly scuttled any attempts at establishing good relations between the two countries, either by sponsoring terrorism against India, ceding a part of its illegally held territory in Kashmir to China or by repeatedly trying to internationalize the issue of Jammu and Kashmir while carrying out massive human rights violations in its own province of Baluchistan.

It is for India to realize that it is futile to expect any major changes in Pakistan's attitude given that there is a diffusion of power between various stakeholders in Pakistan. 70 years of Pakistan's existence has shown that it is happy to remain a satellite state of one major power or the other (earlier it was the US and now its China) and that its leadership, both civilian and military, is motivated by personal pecuniary interests coupled with Indophobia, which rationalizes the existence of the state in the first place, and has no vision of an independent foreign policy or resolving domestic issues amicably. In short, the average Pakistani be damned but the Generals need their kick by instigating India. In an interview with Arnab Goswami of Times Now News Network, Prime Minister Modi admitted as much when he said that there are different forces working in Pakistan.

A House Divided

While the reaction among Indian media, political and strategic experts and civil society at large has been that of taking stringent action to stop the flow of terror from Pakistan, on the other hand there is the usual clique of naysayers who have characteristically put their numerous if's and but's in the debate.

Shivam Vij, writing in the Huffington Post, advises the Indian government not to engage Pakistan militarily as it could backfire. Among the reasons cited are "risk of war", "risk of failure", "international pressure", "economy" etc. In short, let there be status quo ante and what if our few soldiers are dying, we can absorb the losses. The Left Parties, are perpetually in favor of an unconditional political dialogue, even when their own Members of Parliament were humiliated by the separatist leadership on their recent visit to the state. I am constantly amazed by the fact that the Left Parties still have Members in the Parliament. This opinion piece by Mohammed Zeeshan in DailyO starts by stating that India can't effectively respond to Pakistan anyway, asks it to decide on a consistent course of action towards Islamabad and says that the only consistent course of action towards Islamabad is Track-II dialogue and maybe economic sanctions. But that's a big maybe.

It is this multiplicity of opinions in the face of terror that stopped successive governments since the outbreak of the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990 from taking any concrete steps against this proxy war. These governments were also hampered by the fact that all of them were coalition governments requiring endless debates and discussions, cajoling and cooing, to come to any conclusion. However, Prime Minister Modi has no such compulsions. The country has given him a decisive mandate with full majority in the Lok Sabha and the ball is now in his court and he has to make some hard choices if he wants to fulfill the election promises he made in the run up to the 2014 General Election.

Options Before Us

India must boldly consider moves that it has refused to consider so far fearing escalation and risk of failure. The dream to become a superpower can never become a reality without ensuring that the cardinal duty of a nation state is fulfilled, i.e. achieving security for all its citizens. Given below are some of the steps that India can consider while formulating its future strategy viz-a-viz Pakistan.

1. PoK is Indian Territory, Take Out Terrorist Camps: Kashmir formally acceded to India in 1947 but Governor-General Mountbatten made the accession conditional on a plebiscite. According to the resolution passed in the United Nations, a plebiscite could only take place when Pakistan vacated its troops from the region. Since it has not done so for the last six and a half decades, India should now treat the matter with an iron fist and carry out surgical strikes in the PoK to take out any terrorist camps being run in the region to spread militancy and unrest.

2. Scrap Article 370: It is only India's constitution which guaranteed full autonomy to the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the form of Article 370 which limited the center's role in the state to defense, foreign affairs and communications. Pakistan was not able to formulate its constitution for a long time and when it finally attempted to do so, it did not grant any autonomy to their side of Kashmir. The result was that although the demography in PoK has undergone a profound change since 1947, the demography of Indian Kashmir more or less remains the same (except for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989). With no industries due to militancy and security situation in the state and not much tourism or trade either, the people of the valley unofficially live in a ghetto where Azadi is a chimera, poverty a reality and darkness is most probably the future.

3. Balochistan: India should maximize its efforts to fix the international spotlight on the massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Pakistani Army in Balochistan. It should patronize the human rights organizations working for Baloch Rights and grant citizenship to prominent Balochistani activists working for the cause. By increasing its contact and network among the Balochi activists, India can in future attempt to create similar militancy and unrest in Balochistan as exists in Kashmir today.

4. Disrupt Pakistan's Aid Infrastructure: Pakistan is a bankrupt state surviving on the aid distributed to it from numerous capitals across the world including the United States. India must bring its enormous international goodwill to bear upon these states (except China) and must categorically state that any aid to Pakistan will only go towards the funding of non-state actors and towards maintaining the luxurious lifestyles of Pakistani Generals, and hence should be stopped. India's diplomats are among the finest in the world and they would be able to bring results if given a clear mandate to do so.

5. Tackling the Dragon: China, Pakistan's all weather ally, should be handled in a different manner. It is no use grandstanding before a nation that has everything to gain by keeping the factors that fuel instability in the region alive. We must leave no stone un-turned in creating hurdles in the implementation of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) while simultaneously baiting China in the South China Sea. We must make it even more difficult for Chinese businessmen to do business in India when we know that the money earned will only be used against us. We should also make it clear that China's strategic imperatives do not precede India's and that terror is not acceptable as a stratagem.  


The National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, celebrated as doers and men of their word, have lost their face before the public due to the repeated terror attacks taking place on the Indian soil and the failure to counter them. Their role in guiding the Prime minister as he contemplates the future course of action is going to be critical and can make or break their reputation in the time to come. It is hoped that the Indian leadership does not squander away the huge mandate accorded by the public to the government and wipes the menace of militancy and terrorism from its very roots.