In report of the Woodrow Wilson Research Centre, released early this year, Kugelman had predicted that the ground rules of the Indo-Pak conflict are all set to change and become more dangerous after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US troops’ withdrawal will result in both India and Pakistan contending for a greater role in Afghanistan. This will make India and especially Kashmir the numero uno target for Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The increased incidents of firing between Indian and Pakistan soldiers across the Line of Control have made the government come under pressure from the BJP and other parties for its handling. The debate on whether or not India should continue the dialogue with Pakistan has resurfaced. The peaceniks are of the view that stalemate in talks has never resulted in any progress, while the hawks are of the opinion that dialogue has never been a deterrent to Pakistan’s provocations.
The overlying simple truth is that dialogue or the lack of it has little or no impact on Pakistan’s policy towards India. The primary reason behind Pakistan’s repeated provocative acts is that it knows that India has eschewed military retaliation against Pakistan for the fear of nuclear escalation, and because it does not fear retaliation, Indian deterrence against Pakistan is almost dead.
To drive the message home, and to stop Pakistan from such acts, India has to resurrect its deterrence against Pakistan, including the option of using force in a limited war. India can exercise the option of a limited war to safeguard its national interest instead of pursuing its present policy of putting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to desist from sabre rattling and end its shadow war of aiding and abetting the anti-India terror groups, which continue to operate from within Pakistan’s territory even after the deadly 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. For many years, Pakistan has followed the strategy of bleeding India through supporting a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir.
It was tit-for-tat between Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif, during a visit to Pak-occupied Kashmir recently, as the latter said that “Kashmir is a flashpoint and can trigger a fourth war between the two nuclear powers at any time.” Sardar Manmohan Singh’s cryptic reply “There is no scope of Pakistan winning any such war in my lifetime”, says in a nutshell the state of affairs between these two nuclear-empowered nations. Nawaz Sharif was soon eating his own words and denied the comment hours later, describing the newspaper article as “incorrect and based on malafide intentions”. However, the Prime Minister’s Office rubbed salt in the wound by saying he has “a dream of seeing held-Kashmir free from the Indian occupation and desired that this dream could turn into reality during his lifetime”.
In September, Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh had met at the UN General Assembly in New York and both leaders said they would ensure their military commanders work on restoring the ceasefire.
Since May 1998, India and Pakistan have mobilised forces more than twice along their border. During the Kargil conflict of 1999, which was a kind of a limited war, the Indian armed forces demonstrated their capability to fight and win a limited war with Pakistan without violating the sanctity of the LOC.
The CIA and the Indian intelligence agencies have both suggested that the Pakistan army and the ISI have chalked out a two-pronged strategy for after the departure of United States-led NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014. The Afghan Taliban will be allowed to gain political influence and strategic depth in Afghanistan, thereby reducing whatever influence India has gained in that country in the past decade. The Pakistan Army will use anti-India terrorist groups like Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to inflame Jammu and Kashmir and keep India under constant political and strategic pressure. India should also launch a punitive attack across the LoC to degrade Pakistan military’s logistics and communication centres as these would lead to minimum collateral damage and inflict attrition without occupying any territory. It should also simultaneously launch a diplomatic offensive to seek international support for restraining Pakistan from its military adventurism against India. Unless India is able to threaten Pakistan with some form of military retaliation even if on a limited scale, Pakistan will not stop supporting terrorist groups operating against India from its soil.