In consonance with its Kashmir policy and use of terror as an instrument of state policy, Pakistan backed terrorists owing allegiance to the Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked an army installation in Kashmir inflicting heavy casualties. The Indian state's intransigence has only emboldened Pakistan to devise new ways of bleeding India.
In the wee hours of Sunday 18th September 2016, a group of four heavily armed fedayeen attackers belonging to the Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) struck at the headquarters of the 12 Infantry Brigade at Uri and killed 17 army personnel belonging to the 10 Dogra and 6 Bihar Regiments. (Uri is a town on the river Jhelum located in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir). After a fierce gunfight lasting more than three hours all the four attackers were neutralized.
The JeM is a Pakistan funded and ISI-trained terror outfit whose main objective is to carry out attacks against high-value and high security Indian targets. JeM primarily attacks Indian police forces and other government targets, including army bases, camps, and public places in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. This is the same group which had carried out an attack on Indian Parliament in 2001 and earlier in April 2000 it was responsible for the suicide bombing outside the Indian Army’s 15 Corp headquarters in Badami Bagh. The group receives funds through charitable foundations such as the Pak-based Al Rashid Trust, (ART) a trust fund recognized by the U.S. as a financial facilitator of terrorists for raising funds for Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001.
A map recovered by the army personnel recovered from the deceased attackers had markings in the Pashtun language and indicated a detailed plan of action. Four AK-47 rifles and four Under Barrel Grenade Launchers along with ammunition were also recovered. Some of the items had Pakistani markings. The Director General of military operations, Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, said that there was evidence that the attackers belonged to JeM. The map retrieved from the terrorists revealed that they were to kill unarmed troops, then storm a medical aid unit near the brigade administrative block and blow themselves up in the officers' mess.
Sources said the map deciphered by military experts indicated that the terrorists were drawn from the banned terror group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) that recently started working under Jaish command and calls itself "Guardians of the Prophet". The SSP cadre directly operates under Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar.
According to reports there was specific intelligence input two days earlier that militants were planning to strike army formations close to the Line of Control. Furthermore, Business Standard learns the Uri brigade was given pinpoint intelligence warnings about an impending attack. The intelligence agency had said that three fidayeen squads were launched from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. One of them attacked Uri, another went to Poonch where it was engaged by the security forces, and the third was untraced.
Indian’s political dispensation has so far failed to take any concrete action against the Pakistanis or the groups funded and backed by Pakistan till date, notwithstanding the regular terror strikes carried out on Indian soil. India has been unable to muster the political resolve to hit Pak where it hurts most. India’s action has largely been confined to rhetoric and soft options such as economic sanctions or boycott or diplomatic isolation. These actions in the past have not deterred Pakistan or its thugs; these have been mere pinpricks. Pakistan will be deterred only if its very existence is threatened. In order to hit Pakistan effectively, India will have to revise its “No first use” nuclear doctrine and declare that India will respond in a manner that it deems appropriate including a first use of nuclear weapons depending on the exigency. With a revised nuclear doctrine, India can and should counter Pakistan, if need be militarily.
Time and again this blog has called for targeting Pakistanis and Pakistani strategic and commercial interests world-wide. In fact, when in 2008, Pak-backed terror groups attacked and destroyed the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Pakistani missions should have been targeted in retaliation. India failed to respond effectively and the result was Mumbai 26/11. The then National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, according to an article appearing in The Hindu, called for action. “Talk-talk is better than fight-fight,” he said, “but it hasn’t worked. I think we need to pay back in the same coin.”
Mr. Narayanan, intelligence officers serving at the time recall, authorised India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to begin a quiet dialogue on doing just that with its Afghan counterparts. It found a willing partner in Amrullah Saleh, the then head of the Riyasat-e Amniyat-e Milli, or the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Following the 26/11 strike, the officials said, RAW even explored the prospect of targeting Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, using NDS’ assets inside jihadist groups hostile to the Pakistan Army. India’s intelligence czar, though, never got the political clearance he hoped for. The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained committed to the dialogue process with Pakistan, believing that bomb-for-bomb strikes would increase terrorist violence. In early 2010, foreign service officer Shivshankar Menon replaced Mr. Narayanan as the National Security Adviser, and the doves came to control policy-making.
“Keep your hands in your pockets,” a senior R&AW official recalls Mr. Menon as telling Afghan desk officers in mid-2010 — effectively putting an end to any hope of tit-for-tat strike.
India must appreciate the harsh reality that this ongoing undeclared war with Pakistan must be fought alone; neither the US nor the Russians can be expected to fight India's war. At best the international community can be expected to extend technological assistance to India. And importantly this war needs to fought on all fronts - political, military, diplomatic and economic. And India hopefully having learned the lessons of 1965 and 1971 would not leave the "business unfinished" in this undeclared war.
A few options that India may consider in the present scenario are:
- High precision surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) targeting the enemy's logistics and infrastructure. This may result in a certain degree of escalation, which is only to be expected.
- Air-strikes on Pakistani bases responsible for aiding infiltration of terrorists and Pakistani irregulars.
- In order to explore the possibility of countering Pak-sponsored and backed terror, Indian security agencies must start developing covert action capabilities in Pakistan and elsewhere to effectively strike at Pakistani interests. Options such as covert action cannot be discussed in great detail in blogs and news studios given the deniable nature of the acts.
- Targeted killings of military/ISI personnel could be cost effective.
- Pakistani society is fragile and prone to sectarian violence and India must not hesitate to exploit this weakness.
- India can also abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty on the ground of rebus sic stantibus effectively crippling Pakistan’s sustenance.
- Normal trade and bus and train services between India and Pakistan may also be suspended. This action would be more cosmetic and symbolic.
It must be reiterated that should India fail to act ‘decisively’ meaning thereby using the hard power options, India as a state would have failed in discharging its primary role, namely, of protecting and defending its territorial integrity and sovereignty and the international community will cease to take India seriously as a dominant power.