Time to call Pakistan’s bluff
Enough has been written about political and diplomatic efforts to expose and isolate Pakistan. While considerable success has been achieved, more needs to be done to strangulate Islamabad economically
The recent terrorist attack on a Border Security Force (BSF) Battalion headquarters in Srinagar has confirmed three things beyond doubt. First, in Pakistan alias Atankistan, the Army continues to call the shots and not the civilian Government. Second, the realm of India-Pakistan relations does not fall in the domain of foreign policy but continues to be an adjunct of defence policy and, hence, is formulated at General Head Quarters, Rawalpindi and not at Islamabad by the Foreign Minister. Third, the Pakistan Army continues to use terror as an instrument of state policy against India, disregarding international opinion and UN pronouncements.
The Pakistan Army has so far dismissed with contempt not only the stern warnings given by the Trump Administration but also the friendly advice given by its all-weather ally China. The fact of the matter is also that the Pakistan Army has been frustrated to such an extent that it was looking for an opportunity to convey a message that it still possesses assets that can cause damage to India within its territory and, thus, gain the much-needed publicity to keep the Kashmir issue alive, globally.
The deep state within Pakistan is hell bent to provoke India, and either it is not afraid of the consequences or is over confident that India would continue to exercise restraint. They are still looking for the red line drawn by India. Terrorists follow the Clausewitzian strategy of ‘Flowing Water’, like the water continues to flow by changing its course when confronted by an obstacle, so will the terrorists continue to enter India unmindful of the resistance on the Line of Control (LoC) or the International Border, until and unless we too leverage technology to stop infiltration.
Credit needs to be given to the BSF for the initial response and the determination with which the intrusion into their complex was contested, which resulted in the elimination of one terrorist at the entrance. Subsequent operations to eliminate the remaining two terrorists was also well executed in coordination with security forces. In a nutshell, it was an operation well conducted with professional finesse. Credit should be given to Atankistan for two things. First, the choice of Srinagar, the capital city. Second, the choice of target, almost in middle of one of the most secured zones of Srinagar that houses not only a number of security installations, international airport, but also a residential colony in which the who’s who of the Government stays.
But why did they choose this time and place when Pakistan is already under international pressure to shun cross-border terrorism and has been put on a stern warning list by the Trump Administration? There has to be some compelling reasons. Such ‘high visibility’ attacks are usually undertaken in order to break the shackles of frustration and desperation, to convey a message or to scuttle a move that may result in thaw in the India-Pakistan relations.
The Pakistan Army is facing stiff challenge from the Indian Army and the BSF at the LoC and IB, thus thwarting their multifarious attempts to push in as many Kashmiri terrorists as possible so that the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir can be portrayed to the global community as a ‘home-grown’ movement. That is why the attack, though carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), is being projected as the handiwork of the Afzal Guru squad, giving it a local flavour.
Coupled with this is the extraordinary success achieved by the security forces in eliminating more than 150 terrorists in the hinterland, which includes a large number of terrorist commanders. Operation Arjun, launched by the BSF in IB sector, caused grievous pain and hurt to the elements of deep state, selection of a BSF camp is possibly as a retaliation of the same. The Pakistan Army does not subscribe to the “liability theory” of Foreign Minister Abbassi and, hence, carried out this strike to convey to the civilian Government and global community their disagreement and disapproval of this theory.
The terrorists continue to be the assets of the Army and terrorism its preferred policy to deal with India. The deep state is also wary of the latest peace overtures of the Union Government and the signals being sent by the separatist leadership. Through this strike, the deep state wants to convey that peace cannot return to trouble-torn Kashmir till such time they desire it. Proving beyond doubt that the turmoil in Kashmir is backed and financed by the deep state.
The squeezing of terror funds and exposure of the Hurriyat as a conduit of terror funding has added to the frustration of the Pakistan Army. By choosing to attack Srinagar’s most secured location, Pakistan also wants to put a question mark on the impact of Operation ‘all out’ and, thus, raise the sagging morale of the terrorists by conveying to them that it would continue to provide them the oxygen as and when needed. Despite the fact that the operation was successful in minimising losses, Pakistan has succeeded in conveying the intended messages. It has also raised many questions that will require thorough soul searching and critical dissection to evolve a response to the nefarious designs of the rogue neighbour.
How did heavily armed terrorists manage to enter the most secured zone of Srinagar ? Is any insider involved? Was it a reconnaissance for a bigger mission? Is the international airport the ultimate objective? Is it yet another intelligence failure? Did they infiltrate from the LoC or the IB? Was Mughal Road used to enter the valley? Who provided them the logistics support? With Hafiz Saeed in the docks and the LeT suffering losses in the valley, has JeM reemerged as the ‘darling outfit’ of the deep state? Are any more groups of suicide attackers hiding in the hinterland? In view of the forthcoming festival season, has Atankistan managed to induct such groups in other parts of the country as well?
Clearly, there is no change of heart as far as Pakistan is concerned. Utterances of its leaders are meant to play tricks with the global community as usual. Revival of militancy in Srinagar is not a good omen. Its implications can be disastrous and can adversely affect the security forces’ resolve to minimse militancy by this winter. It would be naive to assume that annexation of Kashmir to complete the unfinished agenda of partition is the only and ultimate aim of the enemy. Pakistan’s concept of nationalism is based on anti-India and anti-Hindu narrative. It considers India as an existential threat. Thus, its national policy is to ensure balkanization of India to justify the ‘two nation theory’.
The challenge posed by Pakistan needs a holistic response in political, economic, diplomatic and security domains. We have shown our resolve by giving a befitting reply on the LoC and the IB. Despite best intentions of the Government, we seem to be not making much headway in revamping our internal security apparatus. Too much of diversity in the form of plethora of security forces and multifarious agencies and lack of proper control and coordination continues to be our bane. Restructuring and revamping of our security apparatus is an urgent need.
The Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System should be installed on war-footing to stop infiltration. A serious move on forming a separate ministry of Homeland Security and rejuvenating the National Counter Terrorism Centre can no longer be ignored. Forming a dedicated Internal Security Administrative Cadre should be given a serious thought.
Above all, we need to modernise and reorganise the intelligence set up. Capability to look over the hill, well inside the enemy territory, is needed. The technical support division, which was created by Gen VK Singh as the Chief of Army Staff and later disbanded for reasons non-military, should be re-raised with greater teeth. Human intelligence continues to be another weakness and Technical Intelligence capability needs more investment. Though the Government has earmarked funds for modernisation and reorganisation of State police forces, the project is yet to take off. Formal training capsules and modules for in-service skill enhancement need to be evolved and introduced as part of systems approach to training for police personnel.
Lastly, there is a need to amend the Constitution to add internal security as a pillar of national defence. Internal security should be placed in the Concurrent List, separated from law and order, which is included in the State list. To enhance our surgical strike capability, adequate number of MQ-9 Reaper UAV should be procured from the US. Terrorism cannot be eliminated completely as long as the over ground terror support network is not dismantled. It is a herculean task because over ground network has penetrated all organs of the state and civil society and is spreading like cancer.
Enough has been written about political and diplomatic efforts to expose and isolate Pakistan. Considerable success has been achieved but a lot needs to be done domestically and globally for its economic strangulation. The country is dependent to a large extent on doles and foreign funds. An all-out effort should be made to declare Pakistan a terrorist state by the UN and impose economic sanctions against it. Seeing the present trend, Pakistan is unlikely to relent unless the stakes are raised and unbearable pain caused. We have to say enough is enough and give a befitting reply to Pakistan. There are a number of unexplored military options. We must consider to employ one of them even if it involves raising the bar as far as escalation is concerned. It may have to happen sooner than later.
(The writer is a Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. He can becontacted at email@example.com)
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