There is a way to tame Pakistan

Date: 07 Jan 2009


There is a way to tame Pakistan
Rushing to the UN will not do
Lt Gen Harwant Singh ( Retd )

                  It is more than two decades that Pakistan started the policy of ‘thousand cuts and bleeding India through a low cost option.’ In J and K it has been a combination of insurgency and terrorism while elsewhere in India, simply terrorism. What was seen in Punjab during the eighties and early nineties could not be termed as insurgency as there was no local support or sympathy, except what emerged consequent to police excesses. The vicious scale of insurgency in J and K can best be judged from the fact that in the last decade nearly 25000 civilians and around 8200 military personnel, including more than 500 officers have died combating it and this figure excludes Kargil casualties.
               This year alone there have been 16 terrorist attacks in India, outside of J and K. Though from time to time India has been lodging diplomatic protests, these have been of no avail. Considering India’s size and resources vis-a-vis Pakistan, it would appear implausible for the latter to attempt such a policy and hope to get away from its consequences. In such cases it is essentially deterrence that should work. Deterrence works when the opponent is convinced that retribution will follow with the same certainty as day follows night and that it will be immediate and violent. Unfortunately India has miserably failed to convince Pakistan that cross border terrorism and support to insurgency could invite an immediate and strong military reaction.

               India’s pusillanimity was first demonstrated at Kargil where in spite of large scale aggression by Pakistan we did not even attempt to cross the Line of Control and tackle the ingressing enemy along tactically appropriate and viable approaches and instead opted for suicidal frontal attacks, up impossible slopes. Later, a senior officer from the Pakistan army, in an article explained, how India lost a God given opportunity to retaliate to the Kargil aggression and mount an air assault and take Sikardu, unhinging Pakistani positions at Kargil and Siachen and as also threaten the Northern Areas-Karakoram Highway. Admittedly, there would be any number of excuses, the more obvious being that India did not want to escalate the war. Therefore, the question, how far has Pakistan to go for an Indian retaliation!

                 Then there was the famous mobilisation of the Indian military in 2002, consequent to the attack on the country’s parliament. This was followed by an ignominious climb down. Why posture when the issue has not been thought through! Or when, we simply lack the will and the resolve to take the bull by the horns. The Indian reactions to Pakistan’s policy of thousand cuts is stymied by the self induced fear that latter will use nuclear weapons the moment we cross the border. It is this baseless conclusion, which has acted as a deterrent to Indian response and encouraged Pakistan to continue with its policy of ‘thousand cuts’. Thus India has on its own reckoning frightened itself out of its wits and brought about mental paralysis.

               Even in the face of the Mumbai attacks the defence minister has ruled out military option, but there are press reports that while the terrorist attack was in progress at Mumbai, the IAF had been alerted to strike at terrorist camps in Pakistan. Perhaps like in other areas consequent to the Mumbai attack this too was a knee jerk reaction, which once more conveyed to Pakistan that we lack the gumption to retaliate. The BJP leadership is now baying for retaliation, asking, not an eye for an eye but both eyes for an eye. They do have a short memory in that it was BJP government that chickened out at Kargil and later during the famous mobilisation of the Indian military 

                   As a response to Mumbai attack, some defence analysts are advocating limited military action against known terrorist camps both in Pakistan and in PoK. One of these is ‘surgical air strikes’ against these targets. This form of retaliation is easier than a ground action. In this case too, two factors come into play. One is the complete secrecy of the operation and the other is accurate location of the target and the timings so as to catch maximum number of terrorists in the strike. This calls for very detailed and precise intelligence related to the camps, which may not be forth coming and the strikes may end in large civilian casualties which will result in adverse world wide publicity. The possibility of the operation ending in failure cannot be ruled out and therefore the nation should be prepared for such an eventuality and also against retaliation by Pakistan. 

                  There is also the suggestion to engage these camps with long range artillery and rockets. In this case, besides the issue of accurate intelligence, there is the requirement to have observation of the target to correct fire. Using artillery without the ability to correct fire through observation is akin to dumping artillery shells in a black hole as happened at Kargil while engaging targets in depth where we had no observation. In both the cases retaliation from Pakistan must be accepted. In the case of artillery duels Pakistan is better placed due to the advantage it enjoys in observation and correction of fire through modules it can position in our territory.

               It is no body’s case to start a war with Pakistan and any strikes against that country has all the portents of it escalating into a larger conflagration. Yet India cannot baulk away from this possibility and let itself be bled indefinitely. In the event of a larger conflagration India must be in a position to inflict crippling damage on Pakistan in the shortest possible time frame: before the world powers and the UN intervenes to bring an end to hostilities. Given the prevalent state of the IAF and the morale of the military this may not be possible.

                Consequently India’s options are extremely limited. America and Britain cannot pressurise Pakistan beyond a point to end terrorism .Rushing to the UN Security Council just to seek a declaration on the Jamaal-ud Dawa, as a terrorist outfit is an exercise in futility. LeT too is an outlawed terrorist outfit in Pakistan and is still operative. Given the long record of terrorist acts against India by groups aided and abetted by Pakistan ( ISI, army and the government ) we should have atleast demanded Pakistan to be declared a terrorist state. Though the world knows that Pakistan is the fount of worldwide terrorism, yet it was not likely to be declared a terrorist state due to other compulsions. But India would have made a strong point and opened an avenue for another action 

                That action is to put Pakistan on notice for annulment of treaties and the first of these will be the Indus Water Treaty and so inform the World Bank. India should give Pakistan six months to stop terrorist attacks and dismantle terrorist related infrastructure in that country, failing which we would annul the Indus Water Treaty. Simultaneously start survey of projects to divert waters of Chenab River. This simple move will make Pakistan realise that some of its canals can go dry. Threat to convert dams on Rivers Chenab and Jehlum from the ‘run of the river’ to ‘storage reservoirs’ should be conveyed to Pakistan and that we mean business.