At stake is India’s prestige in the world, Modi’s credibility in India
The people, to put it mildly, are perplexed; they have had, so far, full confidence in Narendra Modi’s amazing prescience in dealing effectively with the Pakistan’s subsidised violence in the Valley and the attacks on military bases–seven big and small intrusions in 2016–by Pak–trained LeT or Hizbul Mujahideen militants. Earlier, he had kept his promise to respond to the killings of our soldiers in Pathankot air-base and in the Amy camp. After meticulous planning, India countered with the surgical strike by our elite, specially-trained for stealth strikes commandos inside PoK. Several posts, which were used as launching pads for attacks in the Indian territory, were wiped out.
The country cheered Modi. People rejoiced; Modi punishes Pak. The surgical strike produced a national catharsis. It signalled that the government readied deterrence redlines. In the euphoria, not much concern was expressed at the increased shelling by Pakistanis, in which both soldiers (115, according to sources) and civilians were killed, after the surgical strike. An attack on another Indian army base at Nagrota resulted in the deaths of seven Indian soldiers. The cross-border ceasefire–often broken since it was agreed upon in 2003–was dead and buried.
We are told that our Army has invariably mounted reprisals after every intrusion by Pakistan’s militants but these actions are not publicised. Indians have full faith and admire our Army. One has full confidence in its ability to secure the country from external aggression. But, then, why have we been unable to stem the attacks from Pakistan? Almost every day in 2015 and 2016, according to the government in response to an RTI, Pakistan violated cease-fire. The casual manner in which the Pakistani militants ‘saunter’ into our territory and kill our soldiers is a matter of concern. The dastardly mutilation of our soldiers reflects the fact that Pakistan treats us as a soft power, and is a believer in the ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ maxim of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence.
Islamabad must be knowing and possibly grinning that we thought our moral obligation to inform the heads of governments in the west, that it was preparing for a surgical strike and explain at length why it was doing it. This means we were suffering from guilt complex. Why? Since the time of Pandit Nehru we have worried about what others thought about us. The good boy syndrome! This is why we felt it was necessary to tell the world that basically we are good boys but circumstances, detailed in the communication, made us do what bad boys indulge in. In such a syndrome, the bad boy always manages to land blows before the good boy reacts.
Have Americans ever explained their war in Iraq? In fact, they revel being called the Ugly American. Have Israelis ever justified their taking out Palestinian? Israelis never said pardon us about the Operation “Wrath of God” (Hebrew: מבצע זעם האל Mivtza Za’am Ha’el), also known as Operation “Bayonet”, a covert operation directed by the Mossad to assassinate individuals involved in the 1972 Munich massacre, in which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed. The targets were members of the Palestinian armed militant group Black September and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Authorised by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the autumn of 1972, the operation is believed to have continued for over twenty years.
Why must we show to the world that we are good, well-behaved and peace-loving nation? We believe that the army has been mounting ‘jawabi hamle’ but they have been, it seems, not deadly enough to scare Pakistan. In such a context, people feel let-down by Modi, who is surely far-sighted and with his feet on the ground pragmatic. Moreover, he is fiercely nationalist and too proud to not let Pakistan’s dastardly attacks.
One is unable to comprehend why he did not plan for deterrents with the capacity to inflict heavy damage, which could be triggered as soon as Pakistan ventured into the Valley to unleash yet another disdainful act. A couple of deadly reprisals would have made even Generals and the ISI, whose raison d’être is perpetual sniping at India to affect its economic growth and stability, which would alarm potential investors, would have made them worry about losses suffered by them. At present, the number of terrorists killed is a bit higher but the number of security personnel killed has surged alarmingly high.
The lack of any apparent strategy and contingency plan for immediate triggering of reprisals that would inflict severe damage has not only led to escalation in the frequency of terrorists venturing into the Valley but seemingly infused in the Pakistani handlers of the terrorists, sent to the Valley, confidence to shame and humiliate India without fear of any reprisal that could wreak unbearable damage. The confidence most us have had that if anyone can put fear in the Pakistani Generals and cower them enough to desist from causing too much mayhem, it was this government under Modi.
It was sadly belied when on May 1 Hizbul militants accompanied by Pakistan’s infamous BAT(Border Action Team) killed two of our jawans, patrolling in the Krishna Ghati in the Poonch sector, and then they committed the most barbaric crime of beheading them. It is so demeaning that Pakistan sends terrorists to trespass into a powerful and resourceful country like India with utter abandon–all the intrusions have been done at ‘location of their choice’ including the timing. Does this sound familiar? Well, the stock statement of our government after every serious onslaught has been‘we will counter at the time and location of our choice’.
This diabolic crime has suddenly raised many questions, which we should have been putting to the government earlier. Possibly, then we should not have been put to shame and so many young officers and jawans would not have lost their lives. An interesting revelation worth giving a thought by an analyst, who tried to understand the reason for the beheading on May 1, when because of Donald Trump becoming President the geo-politics in the region and political equations in South Asia are in melting pot.
He said the beheadings were seen to serve the important purpose of “encouraging” separatists and jihadis in the Kashmir Valley. The brutal acts were to indicate that the Indian Army is vulnerable and that violence in the Valley will be stoked to the maximum extent possible. The Pakistan army seems to calculate that India’s military options, including surgical strikes, are limited and it will not want to raise the temperature at a time when the Modi government is looking to consolidate the economy. The extremist upsurge in the Valley with Islamic State being an inspiration gives Pakistan’s Generals an opportunity to pump in insurgency. But the Pakistani Generals were wrong-footed this time. The Indian economy is growing so rapidly, a couple of skirmishes will not force India go round the world with a begging bowl.
More crucial to the Pakistan’s strategy to use locals to act on ISI and its Generals bidding in South Kashmir, the Indian Army (1500 soldiers) and CRPF jawans along with J&K police, totalling 4000 men, mounted a door-to-door combing operation to ferret out terrorists hiding in houses. This was the biggest operation in 15 years. The first to be sanitized was Shopian district of south Kashmir. This search operation was also to ensure that the situation there was brought under control. “The combing operation is going on as some banks were looted and some policemen have been killed,” said Gen. Bipin Rawat.
This has been an excellent move. Suppression of local agents of Pakistan internally and greater aggression externally is the right blend to contain Pakistan, the combing operation was to “reduce the operational space” for militants in Shopian district after some videos and photographs of militants moving freely in the region also surfaced recently. “It was felt that a large-scale sweep operation was needed to cover areas that are not normally covered in area domination operations. While the number of terrorists has not gone up by much, the support base for them has certainly increased in the shape of safe havens as well as stone-pelting mobs trying to actively disrupt counter-insurgency operations,” said an officer.
Many have expressed doubt about Modi’s ability to cope with Pakistan. His wooing of Nawaz Sharif was criticised because the real power is the Army and Sharif is a mere puppet with its string with the Army Chief. But despite all the deprecating impression about Modi, it is likely he would be showing us the victory sign. His political lexicon does not have the word failure. There are reports that Modi’s game plan is to let Pakistan try sniping at us, and give it a long rope to get itself isolated. And meanwhile, the Army has been given free hand to deal with the day-to-day sniping. The Army’s strategy to ferret out locals, who help militants, will make it increasingly difficult to cause mayhem we have witnessed in the recent past.
It won’t be too long before Pakistan gets branded as a state that spawns, nurtures and exports terrorists the world over. Even if not declared a terror state, it will be, by and large isolated. This is when expect Modi to strike. “The cheerleading in India surrounding the ‘surgical strikes’ has not given way to more sober analysis of long-term strategy’, reminded an expert on South Asian affair. He also said, “And threats of military reprisal to future attacks will be insufficient to compel fundamental change in Pakistan’s behaviour toward India, absent progress in and on Kashmir.” This is what possibly Modi is thinking too.
Shivshankar Menon, the former National Security Adviser, put it, “We may need to adopt the Israeli approach of ‘mowing the grass,’ recognise that you can’t change Pakistan’s behaviour and stop its reprisals and diplomatic pressure.” Like the Israelis, who have no prospect of normal relations with the Palestinians living within and adjacent to Israeli territory, India does not have any hope of peaceful coexistence with Pakistan. A brigand and rogue state, which uses blackmail to achieve its objectives, needs an equally reprobate scheme to put enough fear in the Generals, who have a deep-seated hatred for India.
Those who are pressing Modi to resume dialogue with Pakistan or the likes of Yashwant Sinha and Sharad Yadav, who sincerely hope to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio, should ponder over what some foreign analysts have concluded about Pakistan. ,Even if Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan is resolved, irritants like Indus Water Treaty will not stop Pakistan from hating India. It believes it was shoddily treated at the time of Partition. The Army, in particular, having been worsted every time it ventured into armed conflict simply detests the Hindu India.
Modi possibly agrees with this conclusion. This is why he is, after asking the Army to take care of terror unleashed from across the border, trying for an all-time solution–a Pakistan that constricts to its present Punjab, following Baluchistan and Sindh parting from Islamabad.
Believe it, given the geo-political situation and the economic travails of Pakistan, its shrinking is very much in the realm of possibility.
By Vijay Dutt