When passions run high, logic runs low. Most current affairs discussions on the television these days are testimony to this old axiom. Discussants from various backgrounds — military, diplomacy, strategic analysis, academia — are seen to be making passionate comments about the need for swift retribution. Understandably so, as they don’t hold any position of authority and are devoid of any accountability, should any action launched in haste goes wrong.
Such polemics may be therapeutic; ventilate much of the simmering frustration within oneself and in the broader community, but carry limited practical applicability. Instead, at such a sensitive juncture, what is required is a calm-headed leadership which is courageous yet cautious, resolute yet flexible.
Retribution is a dish best served cold. Many great military missions have hinged on the shock and awe strategy for optimum impact. Military flamboyance and sabre-rattling must be avoided, and instead, a comprehensive Pakistan strategy must be put in place based on strategic astuteness to achieve immediate, medium and long-term objectives.
In the immediate term, India has some urgent concerns to address. The Uri and Pathankot attacks are strong reminders for undertaking a comprehensive review of the current security measures, logistical arrangements and planning, in place to safeguard India’s military and critical installations.
In the wake of the Uri attacks, preliminary investigations have exposed lapses both in the security perimeters and health and safety standards at military bases. The military and the Government must change the ‘sab chalta hai’ attitude and uplift the shanty facilities in military bases in the disturbed areas to avoid similar collateral casualties in the future.
Barring field operations, permanent dwellings for forces need to be provided in disturbed areas. Callous logistical arrangements, such as setting up tents next to fuel dumps, must not be repeated and optimum health and safety standards must be followed to ensure the safety of our forces from avoidable dangers.
Pathankot and Uri attacks have also exposed the gaffes in India’s border management apparatus and security of high value targets. In the former case, the six JeM terrorists sneaked into India by breaching the riverine border, carjacking a police vehicle and then jumping over the Indian Air Force base wall. The ease with which they reached the base and jumped over the wall leaves much to be desired in bolstering police-military coordination and foolproof the outer periphery of critical installations in the country. If such is the level of security at military bases, then Indian oil refineries and nuclear installations should be deemed sitting ducks.
The Pathankot attack exposed the failure of high definition drones, thermal imaging cameras and the civil police vigilance in intercepting the intruders. If the Mumbai attacks led to the creation of a new Coastal Command, Pathankot necessitates a riverine command of some sort to patrol the riverine borders with Pakistan. Installing laser wall protection at all 40 vulnerable points in the sector is required.
The Uri attacks, too, have exposed the limitations of fence across the loC in preventing only 60-70 per cent intrusions attempts. The terrorists need to sneak in just once, while we need to intercept every time — not an easy undertaking. Yet, the military should consider additional features to prevent such breaches.
A project in the Kl University in Andhra Pradesh has developed a Wireless Sensor Network technology which can endure harsh environment and elements such as water, extreme heat and cold. These wireless sensors, small in size and limited battery source, have a high-bandwidth spectrum to overcome the data traffic congestion and remain insulated from electromagnetic interference and hacking. The entire border surveillance infrastructure needs a comprehensive audit to identify the gaps and build further safety and checks where necessary.
In the medium term, first the Narendra Modi Government’s foreign and national security policies must focus regionally to fight terrorism more effectively. Modi had reached out to the SAARC neighbours as his first foreign policy initiative, and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, too, began her innings by visiting Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar, as a mark of respect to the smaller neighbours, who felt marginalised under the UPA. The balance that the UPA had failed to achieve due to its flip-flop approach and frequent course correction, especially with Iran and Sri lanka, are being addressed. Nepal’s new Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, has expressed his faith in Modi to uplift bilateral ties.
In the wake of Uri attacks, while support rendered by the US, France, the UK, Canada, Russia and other countries is welcome, India must realise that sustained pressure and success in isolating Pakistan diplomatically would be achieved by aligning with those who are directly affected by Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
In the August 14 edition of Agenda (Battle for India’s soul), I wrote: “Policy-wise, India needs to isolate and put pressure on Pakistan, internally and regionally. Internationally, Pakistan remains isolated (barring China) on Kashmir anyway, and its terrorism-based regional policy has battered its ties with India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Iran. This makes a compelling case for creating a Regional Counter-Terrorism Alliance that organises periodic meetings between security and intelligence officials; facilitates information sharing and intelligence gathering; prepares memos, white papers and submissions for international conventions and summits; prioritises intraregional extradition; and above all, keeps Pakistan terrorism policies under constant spotlight through individual and collective initiatives.”
In the wake of Uri attack, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are already speaking on similar lines and other neighbours can also collectively isolate Pakistan in SAARC and push other arrangements, such as BIMSTEC, as a retribution for terrorism export.
Second, India must aggressively build its case in the international fora to isolate Pakistan by harnessing the evolving consensus against Islamic terrorism in the wake of ISIS-inspired attacks in Europe, the US and Australia. Tremendous goodwill generated following Modi’s visits to the US, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Indo-Pacific should be utilised now to push for the long due Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the perpetrators of the Uri attack to be brought to justice, and India should make use of this opportunity to have Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin proscribed and listed as terrorists and subjected to targeted sanctions. If Pakistan fails to comply in its international obligations to prevent terrorist financing and money laundering, a case can be made for sanctions under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
While US Secretary of State John Kerry reminded Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to do more to rein in the terrorist groups, the ‘Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act (HR 6069)’ has been co-introduced in the US House of Representative by the Republican Ted Poe and Dana Rohrabacher of the Democratic Party. Poe said, “It is time we stopped paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: A state sponsor of terrorism.” These are indications of growing international heat on Pakistan.
Third, India must now shed its ideological inhibitions to articulate its national interests more openly and discard the business as usual approach to foreign policy. While on the one hand, ties with the US are being bolstered pragmatically through the logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, on the other hand, China policy needs a shot in the arm. China, as the key all-weather ally of Pakistan, remains a thorn in India’s flesh.
To overcome India’s policy timidity vis-a-vis China, quite justifiably Modi — while keeping the doors of friendship open — has also been hedging India’s interests by bolstering ties with Myanmar, Vietnam, Japan and other ASEAN states; endorsing the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea against China; building rail and road network and deploying Brahmos missiles in the North East, and T-72 tanks in ladakh in a show of defiance to persistent Chinese bullying.
Stung by China’s veto in the UN Sanction Committee to block Masood Azhar’s proscription as a terrorist; opposition to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group; and frequent border incursions and air violations, a rather frustrated Indian PM seems to have now hyphenated the Sino-Pak foreign policy, in a well thought move.
India must also utilise all its links with Iran and the Baloch nationals to make the functioning of the Gwadar Port and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor unviable for China. Quid-pro quo should drive this new China-Pakistan hyphenated policy to minimise future Chinese backing to Pakistan.
Fourth, I am not a surgical strike enthusiast, unless in a war situation to neutralise enemy’s military assets and critical installations. On their own, they would only soothe frayed tempers at home, have a dramatic impact in TV broadcasts and destroy a few low-cost makeshift training camps, to be resumed overnight. This is not equivalent to bringing down any prominent structure like the World Trade Centre, to inflict billion dollars worth of damage on Pakistan. Nonetheless, if New Delhi decides to act against the PoK based terrorist groups, there is a strong defence available for such an action under international law. The UNGA Resolution 2625 prohibits states from supporting acts of terrorism, and puts them under obligation to do everything to prevent such international unlawful acts.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has also recognised a state’s “duty to prevent” all unlawful international acts undertaken by NSAs from its territory. In several cases, the ICJ has established attributability (of NSA’s acts), state obligation (towards NSA’s acts), rights of self-defence (of the injured state), necessity (for the punitive action) and proportionality (of the punitive action).
Therefore, under international law, if the state in question is unable and unwilling to purge such acts, then under the Article 51 of the UN Charter, the injured states reserve the right to act in self-defence to safeguard their territory and citizens. Article 8 of the International law Commission Articles on State Responsibility (IlCASR) also establishes Pakistan’s liability providing, “The conduct of a person or a group shall be considered an act of a state under international law if the person or the group of person is in fact acting on the instruction of, or under the direction or control of that state in carrying out the conduct”.
In the long-term, India should learn to pay back in kind by employing the bleeding through a thousand cuts strategy. Pakistan has been able to hurt India constantly by building operational networks and human assets in India. India must come out of its moral policy predicaments and be realistic. The Balochistan and PoK salvos fired from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 can become most potent weapons in the backdrop of India’s deepening ties with Afghanistan and Iran. It has already thrown Pakistan into a tizzy, triggered the Uri attack, and increased hyperbolic rants on Kashmir.
Intensifying attacks in India and Afghanistan demonstrate India’s success at attenuating Pakistan’s strategic space and perpetuating internal insecurities. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali, residents of PoK and Balochistan, including their leaders in exile, such as Brahamdagh Bugti, have thrown their weight behind Modi’s bold policy manoeuvres. Starting with providing asylum to Bugti, now India should diligently develop human assets and networks in Pakistan to increase the cost of terrorism for Pakistan. Human rights violations in Balochistan have already been raised at the UN Human Right Commission in Geneva, and the Human Rights Watch, the US State Department and European Parliament have taken a serious note of them.
It is not about equating Kashmir with Balochistan, but putting an end to Pakistan’s gospel on human rights, by laying bare its blood-splattered record of silencing ethnic and regional voices, rendering hundreds of missing persons, murdering Baloch leaders and nationalists, and undertaking a structured pogrom of the minorities.
And second, while dealing with Pakistan, India should also keep a close eye on developments in Kashmir. The Uri attack could not have been more ill-timed for the separatists, as the ensuing national outrage has completely smothered their irredentist propaganda and pitted a unified nation against them. There is no sympathy now left outside Kashmir for the protestors. This spontaneous national outrage has strengthened New Delhi’s hands to act more firmly with separatists and protestors in Kashmir. It is the right time to stop all perks and privileges to the separatists and reassert the supremacy of India’s Constitution and territorial integrity. Separatists must be firmly told that there will be no more business as usual, and solution first and dialogue later policy would have no takers in New Delhi now.
In spite of the separatists’ boycott, Kashmiris have embraced democracy and aspired for development and better future, barring those misguided five per cent hurling stones on the streets, as Sajjad lone remarked. The all-party delegation has also demonstrated that notwithstanding the differences in the political spectrum, there exists a long-running national consensus to defend the lakshman rekha of India’s territorial integrity.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee once said, “Jo apni soch nahi badaltey, woh akarmanyata ka shikar hotay hain.” (“Those who don’t change their mindset become a victim of inertia”). It is about time that India also altered its thought process and ideological moorings to trounce the policy inertia that had long plagued its dealings with both friends and adversaries.