Talk of avenging Pulwama attack hot air: Here’s how to deal with Jaish-e-Mohammad, other terrorist groups

Image result for pics of Indian soldiers in kashmir

(After the Pulwama attack)

It is funny how, and with what ease and confidence, Islamabad time and again reduces India to a blabbering mess. Over 40 CRPF men get blown up by a suicide bomber who rams his RDX-laden Scorpio into a bus on Route 44 and, as if on cue, the Indian media screams for action, demands demarches and what not, television cameras zoom in on grieving families demanding badla, bickering politicians turn sober and cluck in feigned sadness, a cowering Home Minister promises a fitting response and the Prime Minister, more magisterially, assures the people that the death of the latest lot of martyrs won’t go unavenged. And, in the background, are heard murmurs of telling punitive action in the offing. Meanwhile, in GHQ, Rawalpindi, the generals have a quiet chuckle seeing the same tamasha across the border being replayed for the umpteenth time.

Pakistan government knows it is on to a good thing. As co-legatees of Chanakayan statecraft Pakistani decision-makers, I have long argued, are better practitioners of kuttayuddha (covert war) than their Indian counterparts, who are handicapped by the idea of doing the right thing in the right way and according to, what else, international law and accepted practice which no self-respecting country, incidentally, observes when its vital interests are on the line. India is the sole exception. Because covert warfare is necessarily dirty and prosecuted without scruples, it is apparently beyond this country’s ken to engage in. In the event, it is left hoping that, other than the regulation bombast emanating non-stop from Indian news channels, that international denunciation will bring Islamabad to heel. Well, good luck!

Army soldiers take positions during an encounter with militants at Sirnoo in Pulwama. PTI

Pakistan is no amateur at this game. It was party to managing (with an assist from the US Central Intelligence Agency) the proxy fight using the Afghan mujahideen to push the mighty Soviet military out of Afghanistan in the 1980s without seeding enduring enmity with Moscow. It is a far lesser task to use radicalized Kashmiris to discomfit India that acts as a punching bag of a nation. Pakistan is emboldened because there’s China as a backstop to Pakistani terrorist ventures, ready to blunt any international opprobrium. Never mind that its own restless Uyghur population in Xinjiang is susceptible to the Islamist virus, and the sunni hotheads in Jaish could, in a slightly altered context, be the medium to stoke Uyghur militancy.

So, how do you deal with the pestilence called Saeed Hafiz, Azhar Masood and others of that ilk and their scrofulous followers bent on attempting – albeit materially and infrastructure-wise supported and encouraged by their minders in the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services intelligence (ISI) —  the impossible? Loosening India’s hold on Jammu And Kashmir is no easy thing to try and do for Pakistan. But that’s not what ISI hopes to accomplish. It is intent and itching to draw the Indian military and the state into a brawl with the natives, not get Delhi so riled up that it overcomes its self-imposed inhibitions.  Equally, India — big in every way and enjoying a huge margin of safety and of error, seems unable to summon the necessary nerve and the gumption to do anything remotely incautious.

All the talk of air/missile strikes, more surgical strikes, etc “to teach Pakistan a lesson” is a lot of hot air because if the Modi government had it in mind to actually unleash an aerial strike, for instance, it would have done so instantaneously after the suicide attack, not informed the media about the ruling party contemplating such actions. Moreover, the standard operating procedure on the other side is that as soon as a big terrorist operation is mounted, the Pakistan military firms up its forward lines, puts its SILLAC air defence system out of Sargodha on 24/7 radar sweeps to detect any aerial approach by India, and field formations assume a war-ready posture, prepared for any affray that an angry, perennially reactive, India may care to launch.  Which is to say such Indian response has zero prospects.

I have long argued that the answer to Pakistan’s use of asymmetric means is not for the government to approve the army’s formal counter-strike proposals, which to-date have proved futile in deterring ISI from waging a covert war, leave alone cowing GHQ, Rawalpindi, into restraining itself on this count. But rather that time is nigh to physically target and eliminate trouble-makers like Hafeez and Azhar.

Two options have always been readily available to Delhi. One is the sniper solution – a designated covert team infiltrated into Pakistan around Muridke in Pakistani Punjab, HQrs of Jaish, say, with one or two master marksmen to take out these terrorists, and for this team to be exfiltrated after the deed is done. The trouble here, again, is that the Pakistan army is besting India in this department, meaning that either Pakistan army sharp shooters or a few Kashmiri natives rigorously trained for sniper shoots have been making life miserable for the Indian armed forces – army and para-military for many years now. Their use of the Chinese Zijiang M99 Sniper Rifle, rated as one of best five of its kind in the world, has been exemplary. Its ability to precision hit targets at 1,800 metre range, ie, almost 2 kilometers, has played havoc with Indian troops in the Valley and elsewhere.  It is something the army, para-military and the J&K and Indian governments do not publicly acknowledge. The Indian army snipers, on the other hand, make do with a dated Russian piece – the Dragunov SVD when the newer, more advanced, Chukavin, with 1,600 metre range, is in the market. Worse, the Dragunov ammo stock is so low at only 25 percent of requirement that Indian snipers get to fire just 4 or 5 rounds for practice per year! This is a joke.

The other, more effective, option is right in the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s supposed area of expertise – activating RAW and other sleeper cells in Pakistan for attacks to execute Sayeed, Masood, et al. If successful, it will put the fear of God into these miscreants without disturbing the general tenor of bilateral relations. The Pakistan government cannot publicly object to their killing because it does not own up to sponsoring them in the first place. Moreover, there are lots of ways to make their elimination look like accidents.  This is the very essence of kuttayuddha that the Indian government, intelligence and military are distanced from, but which Islamabad has grasped. It is also the only thing that will, in fact, work.


[Published in, Feb 16, 2019 at \

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.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, China, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, guerilla warfare, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian para-military forces, Indian Politics, Intelligence, Internal Security, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Missiles, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Relations with Russia, Russia, SAARC, society, South Asia, Special Forces. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Talk of avenging Pulwama attack hot air: Here’s how to deal with Jaish-e-Mohammad, other terrorist groups

  1. Shyamala Cowsik says:

    Excellent suggestions, Mr.Karnad, especially the second option, in the style adopted by Israel in the old days. I hope the present powers that be in Delhi have the gumption to go that route, and the good sense not to talk about it, either before or after the operation. Maybe they can rope in.Akshay Kumar
    to help.out!

    A small point. It is kootayuddha. Not.”kuttayuddha”, with its canine connotations!

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

    Sorry but Pakistan is not short of Sayeeds and Azhars.

    If Doval cannot escalate to the level of bumping off Munir; if Bipin cannot escalate to the level of bumping off Bajwa, then there is no escalation and the costs do not rise for misadventures.

    Modi ji is already so precious that both he and his supporters worry all day long for his well being. Hence again the costs cannot be escalated for the opponent.

    Under such situation only sub-strategic response can be made for a sub-strategic attack.

    After all it is more important to be Vishwaguru than to be alive and adept at protecting the country’s honour.

  3. jorawar says:

    why are we indians nothing but a bunch of cowards?

    were the british right in believing that some communities are simply better at killing while others are not. and if we go by this theory are we wrong in giving power to people who shouldn’t be the ones deciding the business of war.

  4. Varun Grover says:

    We are getting it all wrong aren’t we, both as a people and the government. Pakistan is only doing what it does because of a lack of love from India and our unwarranted belligerence for the last 70 years. Instead of scrapping MFN status and imposing 200% import duty, let us work towards a 40 billion USD trade target in the next 5 years. Let us pull back our short-range nuclear missiles from our borders. Let us make Kartarpur corridor a national priority. Let us disband our 3 strike corps. It’s not as if our bilateral relations are bad because Pakistan as a state and people has an incurable intrinsic Hindu and India hatred, whichever idiot thought that was the case. So let us “co-opt” them, shouldn’t be that hard I suppose, after all, Mr. Bajwa longs for that long overdue hug. Only if the dumb policymakers and politicians of this country realized this ingenious solution.

    • Vishnugupt says:

      @Varun Grover

      LMAO too good pal…thanks for writing this. I was about to.

      Indian’s and Pakistani’s are ultimately “co-op table”.

      @Prof Karnad I don’t know if you have noticed that even THE CIA couldn’t snip Usama, and had to come all they way to get him, as it’s impossible to snip someone who is sheilded by GHQ Rawalpindi at its back yard and never comes out in the open with high rise buildings.
      Since we don’t have stealth choppers and millions to bribe every general in GHQ, getting them will be a real life Mission Impossible.

      And thanks to Congress’s strict adherence to Panchsheel, R&AW’s covert capabilities in Paki Punjab region is a joke. And Doval’s newly sown seeds(deep cover assets) will take at least 10 yrs to germinate.

      And before that happens Haffez and Azhar would be long dead of cholesterol/blocked arteries given the amount of beef kebabs they devour. And someone else would have taken their place.

  5. Vihan says:

    Dear Bharat,

    Would not a truly strategic response be to resume nuclear testing? I know you have painstakingly argued for the resumption of nuclear testing since time immemorial in your books, articles, and talks; sadly, no one in the establishment has had the brains or the testicular fortitude to listen to you on this point.

    Continuous nuclear testing till we achieve a 3 MT yield TN weapon capable of being mated on AGNI MIRVs is exactly what we need. Ideally, we should be having a 27 MT yield weapon (I have suggested this in a response on this very blog many years ago); but as I recall you said it would be “too much of a good thing!” 🙂

    If the world hollers we can just shrug and tell them to make Pakistan stop terrorism. Moreover, if Pakistan starts testing as well in response, we can dryly tell the U.S and E.U that if they think this is so serious, they should send in aircraft carriers and long range bombers to take out Pakistan’s nuclear sites and all known warhead storage facilities on their own.

    There is a beautiful irony here as well, China has always used Pakistan against us; let us use the Pakistani terror as an excuse to test and validate our nuclear deterrence against China!

    Considering our much greater economic heft, we can certainly bear economic sanctions much better than we did in 1998. It would also be supremely delicious if China threatens sanctions as we can then officially and finally ban all Chinese exports to India.

    As always, I would love to hear your response.

    Best regards,

    – vihan

  6. Lucius Aurelius says:

    As a well-wisher of the Indian people, I am time and again surprised how the political and military leadership of that country eschew confrontation, and be it even hidden attacks. If I sometimes listen to the statements of these leaders, I get a feeling, that besides grand- talking, they don’t understand their business. Didn’t they get any education of sort ? Surprisingly, also the military leadership seems not up to the mark. When are the long overdue reforms going to be implemented? Seems to me that 19 th century Prussian military had even some more advanced policies, than India’s army today. That intelligence services have better reputation all over the world, then really what they are capable off on the field, is well known. But RAW is run be second grade bureaucrats, and is playing in a league of its own. I am taking your NSA by the word:” you do another attack and, you’ll loose Balochistan.” How come, that under BJP rule you were forced by hijackers to free a jihadi maulana, and this jihadi is still able to roam around freely in your neighboring country?Osama’s whereabouts were unknown for a long time. Can’t you send a squad to finish the business ( russian style poisoning might be considered as well)? For the long run, take a leave out from the Israeli Defence Forces. Don’t allow dead fiyadeen graves to become pilgrimage places. Burn their bodies and scatter their ashes. Surely the suicide bombers families profit financially. Raze the houses of these families to the ground.That will hinder potential fiyadeen. How come the father of the suicide bomber gets a platform on Indian TV?

  7. For this to happen, the Indian State has to first include its most loyal citizens, The Indian Armed Forces, into the security calculus. Whereas till yesterday we were busy degrading their status and privileges, equating them to the Para military or even below so that the babus ruling the Indian roost, the heavenborn IAS continue their control of all matters military, without any concomitant responsibility and accountability.
    Just see, how the Cabinet Committee on Security, held its meeting to discuss the response to Pulwama, sans the three Service Chiefs…

  8. devraj says:

    Sir direct strikes by nirbhay type cruise missiles numbering 20 to 30 strikes nearly 500 to 600 km inside pak occupied kashmir at each major terror attack is best solution.because usa russia adopt it.and it is very first reactio by usa russia and it prevent risking lives of indian commandos and indian pilots who conduct airstrikes as plan can be shoot down and commandos can be killed and such cruise missile attack will be good testing ground for our cruise missile programme also.i want hot blood of those pakistani soldiers to revenge my greatest and bravest indian soldiers.Jai Hind

  9. devraj says:

    If indian government really want to revenge pulwama attack it has done it in next 24 hrs with best available option but as it continues govt will submit doziers and do some formal action on border to glorify it in elections.india hesitate because pak has nukes even india also has nukes but iran which has no nukes revenge shows iran is not afraid of pak nukes then why india

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.