Now it’s time for a strong reply

How should India respond to recent terrorist strikes carried out by Pakistan- trained ‘non state actors’ on December 5, 2014? What is the significance of such strikes? It was a tactical strike and many such attacks do not fulfill geo-strategic aims. In fact the Indian nation should strengthen its resolve. Should India respond to each and every tactical strike, or should she select the time and place of choosing to hit back, tactically? It is the stated aim of Pakistan to create terror and win the war on Kashmir by delivering a thousand cuts to India, thus tiring out the nation. Tactical strikes since 1947 have taken Pakistan away from the bigger picture, that of development and instead left it’s populace under the thumb of radicalization, thus creating a serious law and order problem. In Pakistan non-state actors are looked as strategic assets. The Indian nation has many voices with good neighborly relations and peace, “aman and shanti”, as its core values that India has sadly blundered along. 

Deploying security forces is considered an end to a means. India needs a consolidated reply covering all aspects, from population control to border management, to tactical response, military response and the geo-strategic response, all rolled into one and not a knee jerk reaction every time something happens. India does have all these positions in place at various departments. However, these elements remain disjointed and do not act as a cohesive force.

There are two case studies, one of America during the Cold War and one of Israel that we need to examine. The Russian bear was contained at the tactical level by placing enough troops on the ground, by having strong forces that could match it tank for tank. At the operational level the Americans created a synergy between various forces and having a battle concept, by maintaining alliances with various nations in the NATO. At the geo- strategic level, the US went on an encirclement operation and spent so much on defence that the Russian economy could not sustain it.

Israel on the other hand has built its economy, but ensured it manages its population by military training and constructing bunkers and early warning system for the safety of her civilians’, in addition to encircling Palestine and not allowing its economy to flourish. The key ingredients in this cooking pot thus became a strong economy, backed by resolute diplomacy, national will, synergy between all branches and departments, creating good will, building a strong military, tactical freedom to achieve superiority in every encounter and the safety and security of its populace. All these elements came into place within the greater environment, which today is a knowledge-based society, trying to achieve 10 per cent plus growth rate.    

An analysis of Pakistan brings one to conclude that it seeks tactical initiative, blunders at operational levels and has lost the bigger geo-strategic picture. It is also ready to use its nuclear weapon card and indulge in brinkmanship, that could well escalate to a serious border skirmish. India, however, will try to ensure a full scale war is at best avoided. Pakistan’s foreign policy is army controlled, internationalising the Kashmir issue and giving territory to China and making an attempt to have an anti-India alliance are its key foreign policy ingredients. India has a response to all these strategies, but shies away from giving a reply to the Pakistan Army, which is a key mischief monger. The high and mighty in policy planning feel that the Army should be kept away from policy decisions and should be involved in execution alone. The inputs that the Indian Army can give the foreign policy mandarins  on Nepal and Pakistan, besides the hands on experience that it possesses in Sri Lanka is not taken to account. Thus the Indian nation stands to lose due to mind set problems.

Should India respond to each and every terror strike, as per the old saying an eye for an eye? Each time Pakistani dignitaries come on Indian television, the denial of all events is a favorite ploy. These dignitaries also hurl stones at India by casting aspersions on New Delhi’s alleged role in breaking Balochistan away from Pakistan. India needs covert operations but not terrorists as the “chickens always come home to roost”.

There should be a plan to take the military into the lop on key geo-strategic decisions, to tackle the subcontinent. With war or a war-like situation on India’s border, the military cannot be a force outside the loop, as it directly affects the land boundaries. The army should be strong enough to cause fear in the attacker and cannot be left as a punching bag. Currently the soldier is only remembered on ceremonial occasions or when some rescue work has to be done. Consequently, the image and the morale of the forces have taken a hit. A tactical response will be a good weapon in the armory. The key element to be punished should be the party that caused or supported the strike, which is usually the Pakistan Army. The local populace at the border must be managed by creation of bunkers and an early warning system. There is freedom at the tactical level, but a certain amount of weight that will allow Indian forces to cause degradation, will send the correct message.

Greater synergy is required at all levels of government and the armed forces. It does exist and there are enough loop holes. Intelligence sharing is still a holy cow. The less said the better. The nation needs a strong security force. Paramilitary forces are doing a yeomanry task against the Maoist. Civil society needs to have confidence in the Army as well, now that they have confidence on democracy. India must develop economically at around 10%, put a great strain on Pakistan by becoming an international player, and let the jihads and Pakistan Army run her future. For too long India has vacillated. The sub-continent can proceed without waiting for Pakistan  as they see no gains in “aman and shanti”, which comes from a position of   strength not weakness. In short the responses should be at the tactical level, operational level, working in a cohesive manner in the Geo strategic environment.

The author is a retired brigadier

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