What now after Baramulla?

The Pakistan army’s being more agile and faster on the draw and initiative means that India will always be wrongfooted. Apparently, the targeted state is far from comatose as defence minister Manohar Parrikar prematurely declared it as anesthetized — a strange metaphor to use. While the Modi government and much of the country was celebrating what media and official circles continue to mislabel as “surgical strikes” when the Sept 28 night attacks were, as I have indicated, in the genre of the normal Special Forces actions the Northern Command occasionally undertakes on the Line of Control where “hit teams” amble out across the line to shoot up-blow up things on the Pakistani side, amble back to safety behind own lines. There’s mutual deniability. Whence Pakis denied any SF operation had taken place. Hearing the media commentariat go bonkers and our politicians ballistic — besides Parrikar, Home Minister Rajnath Singh self-satisfyingly saying India had given — this being UP political lingo — a “muh tod jawab”, what will all these parties do now that the attack by suspected LeT/JeM jihadis on the Rashtriya Rifles camp in Baramulla did not fetch any kills of the intruders? They need to shut up and think of what next to do.

It seems likely that ISI activated a sleeper cell already inside the Srinagar valley, because the alternative explanation that the Pakis risked another infiltration so soon after the last one suggests that the army and BSF, despite being on heightened alert, still did not police the LoC with sufficient diligence.

It is doubtful GOI had prepared to deal with an attack so close in time after the one that created so much ruckus. But that’s doing the unexpected and Indian forces, predictably, mostly reactive by habit are trying now to quell the disturbance, rather than, jointly with the BSF and armed J&K Police and with local intelligence handy, sanitize the border zone with door-to-door searches and, grid-wise, combing operations in areas close to LoC with a history of being hospitable to cross-LoC jihadis. In the absence of such measures, we have the present situation of GOI, apparently, once again caught unawares. And a Hindi TV program rightly wondered whether India would be engaged in “serial surgical strikes” on PoK targets in response to serial terrorist attacks on Indian military targets?

It emphasizes the need for a permanent system of automatic and instantaneous retaliation I have previously mooted, and which should — two decades after Hizbul Mujahideen under Salahuddin (who decamped for PoK) after New Delhi clumsily rigged state elections and he was declared a loser — have been in good functioning order, had someone thought of so basic a set-up.

Should such an organization for coordinated intelligence assessment, operational planning, and prompt action be established as is desperately required to be done, it will have to wrestle with precisely such situation as unfolded in Baramulla.

There has to be punitive action — there cannot now be a break in the action-reaction sequence initiated by the Indian counter-strike. There’s no doubt about this. Not responding will convince Pak army and ISI that India has no stomach for a sustained fight. This cannot be allowed to happen. Instantaneous anything seems beyond the ken of the government and the armed forces. What’s the second best option? A genuine “surgical strike” on targets deeper in PoK rather than on the LoC where targets will now be hard to find as the Pak army, per news reports, have moved the terrorist training camps, etc to hinterland areas, such as Nowshera and Jhelum.

While readying the armour and mechanized fleets, as is supposedly happening to dissuade possible Paki reactions is fine, the fact is Pak GHQR will not do anything as foolish as to get into a general war with India and start a conventional military affray south of Gurdaspur (and across the international border), meaning it will not respond to an Indian punitive strike by crossing the delineated India-Pak boundary. Even less will Raheel Sharif consider even remotely the nuclear option — something more people — with no idea of what they are talking about — are doing here than on the other side, Khwaja Asif and that lot of foolish Paki pols excepted.

But whatever else they do, the Indian media and politicians need to pipe down, not indulge in escalatory rhetoric, which is almost as bad as the real thing in mucking up matters. Kuttayuddha is necessarily silently prosecuted without all the Sturm and Drang. Part of covert warfare is the absolute necessity for greater surveillance of the Kashmiri population, whether it likes it or not, to identify those families/households potentially giving comfort to the LeT/JeM fighters as prelude to weeding them out.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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12 Responses to What now after Baramulla?

  1. Shaurya says:

    One thing to get some views on. What if we do indulge in a largely geographically restricted, fire power and man power restricted conflict, by and large around the LoC only, for a sustained period of time. The attempt should be to pulverize anything the PA can throw at us in this limited area. The objective to keep the pot boiling with limited strikes and maybe even some salami slicing.

    I so wish that Bharat’s suggestion of 3 mountain cores was accepted, whereby a strengthened pivot corps would be sufficient to manage any Pakistani thrusts in the plains.

    To what degree would such an approach of a restricted conflict help Pakistan due to their ability to concentrate their forces but against a much stronger Indian force.

    Would they sue for peace (whatever that means in the Pakistani context) or is it disadvantage India?

    • andy says:

      @Shaurya
      Basically what you are suggesting is that the cold start doctrine be put into action by Indian army.This envisaged integrated battle groups backed by overwhelming fire power,making shallow thrusts,50 to 80 kms into enemy territory in retaliation for a terrorist attack within 48 hours or at least before diplomatic pressure ,especially by the US,forecloses the military option.As Major Gaurav Arya writes “This new doctrine stressed on fast moving Integrated Battle Groups, duly supported by the Air Force and Navy. It conceived a war fighting method that would catapult India into full-fledged battle in 48 hours ”

      He further adds “IBGs, eight in number and each the size of a division, will make lightening thrusts inside Pakistan, going in 55-80 kilometers. The holding (pivot) corps will carry out limited offensive strikes, while maintaining their defensive posture.”

      The aim of such strikes would be ” to seriously degrade Pakistan’s will to fight, inflict severe damage to its war-fighting infrastructure and disrupt their decision-making capabilities. ”

      He lists out 7 major war exercises conducted by the IA precisely to practice this doctrine. As per his analysis the cold start doctrine is ready(contrary to popular perception) to be put into action, “Some experts claim that Cold Start is still in the experimental stages. That’s not true. It may not have been battle tested because that needs a war, but for the past 12 years the Indian Army has been honing it to a fine edge. 

      Why this particular option is not exercised is beyond comprehension,the only reason one can think of is it may be considered too escalatory,but such thinking never stops the pakistanis from doing a Mumbai,Pathankot or Uri terror strike.What’s the use of having a doctrine,that is ready for implementation but is not being used?
      See more :
      http://www.indiandefencereview.com/cold-start/

      • Shaurya says:

        @Andy: I like the IBG concept but not its positioning primarily due to the fact that they are aligned along the IB not the LoC. Mountain IBG’s anyone? Bharat had another long standing demand to have a special forces command – that would have helped immensely in such a posture. We are only half way there.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        No amount of raising of new commands like the Special Forces Command and the Catering to the SF Command can make up for the lack of the will by the powers-that-be to fight, AND, the lack of the will of the people to force the powers-that-be to fight. It requires a different mind set to play “hard ball”. There are adequate commands within the present set-up to fight, but the will is pathetically lacking. Whatever happened to the much vaunted National Grid on which thousands of crores were spent? The output has been ZILCH!

      • Shaurya@ and Andy@ — 8 IBGs forming on the run — the essence of Cold Start, is infeasible in realizing any substantive aims as I have long argued in my books and other writings, because there’s a severe limitation on the operational logistics integral to the armoured/mech forces, and absent an equally rapidly moving resupply system, the advance from a standing start by Indian units will stutter to a halt 30, 40, 50 miles into Pakistan on the northern sindh-southern Punjab front; in central Punjab these units are unlikely to be able to breach the Icchigoil line. So there. Cold Start is one of those fantasies Indian “cavalry” generals have enthused about without much reason, except the best and the sanest among them, the late Lt Gen Hanut Singh of Poona Horse, when I talked with him last in the mid-90s — before Cold Start was formally conceived, always rated the chances of successfully sustaining a bulk armoured/mech attack well inside Pakistan as bleak.

  2. &^%$#@! says:

    India needs to target terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, in addition to ISI officers known to be involved in terrorist activities. Taking out a bounty on their heads (say USD 10 million in whatever currency including bullion and payable anywhere) would IMHO also be necessary. Precious lives of Indian soldiers cannot be wasted just because of GoI inaction and callousness. Of course, there does exist a distinct possibility that the targeted criminals will spill the names of prominent Indians who have abetted their activities in some way or the other. In such an eventuality the GoI should “throw the book at” and hunt down such individuals whoever they are and wherever they may be. Is the Goi up to the task?

  3. &^%$#@! says:

    For starters, Article 370 of the Constitution needs to be repealed, and vast tracks of J&K be gifted to very large numbers ex-services personnel to settle there with their families and set up an ecosystem of Kibbutz-like networks. Generous financial incentives should be provided for such a re-settlement scheme. These personnel need to be armed to the teeth with light and even medium weaponry (heavy mortars, light artillery, etc…) and night fighting equipment, and given sufficient communications gear and vehicles to coordinate with IA, BSF, and RR bases, and, carry out patrols within designated areas.

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Here is a ‘revealing’ article about how much US had supported India in 1965. Off course something like this can only be written by somebody who signs off as “Lalit K Jha in Washington”. And this is not the only thing out there. 10/20/30 years hence whenever my children read this, I will not be able to hold them responsible for being ill informed. They would have only this stuff to read.

    Indian stance in Kashmir has been allowed by all manner of people to wither away since Independence. So in 1965, while the ordinary Kashmiri helped nab Paki regulars and irregulars today we have Track-2s and what not.

    May be there is more than just military response that is required.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      rediff.com/news/report/us-backed-india-on-kashmir-in-1965-indo-pak-war/20150827.htm?print=true

      Forgot to put up the link

  5. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Automaticity of response and deep penetration precision strikes, supported here too by Sqn Ldr Vijainder K Thakur (Retd):

    [As the third solution, the ace Jaguar pilot says that the Indian Army (following a Pathankot-like strike) must have all the freedom to retaliate immediately in whatever manner it feels best within the sector used for infiltration…….
    “The Army should have clearance to strike targets up to 60-km deep using rockets,” says the former pilot who served the IAF from 1974-1994…….
    Read more at: http://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/india/india-must-declare-uri-attack-as-an-act-of-war-by-pak-expert-english-news-1.1367930%5D

    Because if its not automatic then the slow irrational responses take over the timelines whereby the response cycle will be:
    1) make ‘silent’ attacks and ‘leak’ to chela-chapatas on twitter in an attempt to gain nationalist credentials and when that leaves the larger country out of the loop;
    2) risk another bigger attempt and if that looks like not being unique enough;
    3) then try to divert issues by targeting lose talk by Kejris and Nirupams.

    Killing of sleeping or off-duty soldiers deserves the same kind of punishment that the last remaining people from Kaurav side received when they attempted something similar. Those who claim to be Hinduon ka masiha should have at least this much figured out by their own efforts.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      In all this and with the Pakistani’s pulling back the terror camps to locations such as Manshera, Naushera and Jhelum, the immediate formal induction of the Prahar missile becomes all the more vital. A single salvo from the mobile launch platform of this invaluable battlefield support tactical weapon system can devastate quite a large area.

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