Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2016-09-23 01:00:09 Published on Sep 23, 2016
The Poonch incident two weeks ago and in Uri indicate there is no fight left in the militants in the Valley.
After Uri: India should use covert action, diplomacy and limited military action

Pakistan’s covert war against India is a classic example of a state that initiated a conflict ending up the worse for it. The country that sought to use jihadi proxies against India is now being drowned by them.

Indian media are reporting the outrage of citizens across the country. This is largely the outcome of heightened political-psychological expectations that the Narendra Modi government will give Pakistan a 'muh-torh jawab' (a jaw-breaking response). As it is, the foremost political figure dealing with Kashmir, BJP National general secretary Ram Madhav, has demanded not just a tooth for tooth, but an entire jaw.

The problem in dealing with the situation is the various definitions of success. This government’s goals in Kashmir and with Pakistan are maximalist: nothing short of a complete 'integration' of J&K into the Indian Union, with no room for dissent of the kind being witnessed. Likewise with Pakistan, success is complete surrender by Islamabad and its assimilation into the larger civilisational entity called India, or Bharat.

Attaining a goal 100% is difficult, if not impossible. What India needs to achieve is a reasonable goal. This is not as difficult as it sounds. In the past, specifically during 2003-07, we have seen its shape: Pakistani interference falling to a trickle, Kashmir witnessing unprecedented calm. Since then, there have been violent civil protests in the Valley, the latest one triggered by the Burhan Wani’s killing in July. However, armed militancy has not been significant.

The Poonch incident two weeks ago and in Uri indicate there is no fight left in the militants in the Valley. To step up armed violence, militants from Pakistan are needed. While the Indian Army stops a lot of them, others have managed to get through, as evident in Uri on Sunday.

Any discussion of military options must begin at the possible 'end state' of conflict between two nuclear-armed states. Here, total victory means that while one side is totally destroyed, the other cannot escape grievous damage.

A military response that India may undertake has to take into account limited objectives. The challenge is in defining what they are. Often, these are stated as attacking the terrorists' training camps, even though such camps are often difficult to pin down as they comprise a couple of shacks and a firing range.

Attacks on the headquarters of terrorists such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Muridke are likely to result in the deaths of hundreds of women and children who reside there, since Muridke is not a military facility and comprises mosques, madrasas, hospitals and other civic amenities.

Attacks in Pakistan’s Punjabi heartland will not be uncontested and will certainly lead to a Pakistani response. What the consequences of that could be are difficult to predict. The other way is to use covert means to strike at the terrorist leadership, much in the way of the US and Israel. However, this needs extremely good intelligence, some gathered electronically, but critically supplemented by human intelligence.

In both these areas, India lacks the wherewithal. This can take several years to build.

Diplomacy has not given us much. Getting the UN to sanction Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed was tough.

Pinning down Masood Azhar is proving uncommonly difficult in the face of the Chinese backing of Pakistan. In any case, the UN sanctions give you some psychological satisfaction, and little else. At the end of the day, the change has to come from within Pakistan.

The average person there must internalise the abhorrence for Sayeed in India since his role in ordering the massacre of innocents in Mumbai in 2008. Pakistanis have felt the pain of casualties from bomb blasts, shootings and killings. Somehow, they need to connect with the pain of the others caused by the proxies they host in Afghanistan or India.

No single policy will work here, and certainly not the demonisation of Pakistan as a whole. India’s task is to slowly and steadily build up a constituency for peace and isolate the war party. To that end, it must use a mix of methods: covert action, diplomacy and, if adequately finessed, limited military action.

But to implement this sophisticated and complex policy, we need a clear-headed leadership in New Delhi. And one that privileges pragmatic solutions and is less ideologically inclined.

This commentary originally appeared in The Economic Times.

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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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