[In the wake of the Pulwama suicide attack]
[Published in BloombergQuint. com on Feb 18, 2019 in my occasional Realpolitik column, at https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/india-has-to-solve-the-pakistan-sourced-terrorist-problem-by-itself#gs.Iohjmoso ]
Owing to the image Prime Minister Narendra Modi has projected of himself and his
government as strong and decisive, many media commentators are of the view that a telling response to the blowing up of 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers in Pulwama is on the anvil. They appear to be influenced more by his rhetoric than his actions, but shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for an Indian counter.
Nothing very much is likely to transpire by way of meting out condign punishment to
Pakistan despite the near universal condemnation of this terrorist act and of Pakistan’s role in facilitating it and the US government signalling its acceptance of Indian retaliation as self-defence. This last matters because successive Indian governments in the new Century have cravenly sought Washington’s permission before doing anything remotely adventurous. Recall that after the 2001 attack on Parliament – a far more serious provocation because it was targeted directly at India’s sovereignty, the US Embassy handed over to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime detailed aerial maps of the Jacobabad air base with portions of it that housed US military assets clearly marked out; the implication being that India was free to hit any other part of that Pakistan Air Force base it wanted to. In the event, India did nothing, even after general mobilization for war and the two armies eyeballing each other for six months before Delhi and Islamabad called it quits. It was a sheer waste of time and resources. To believe that in the present situation, Delhi will act differently, forcefully, is to expect the untoward, which
Delhi’s idea of coercive diplomacy is to get other countries to do something about the
Pakistan-sourced terrorist problem that it won’t do itself, such as prosecute seriously punitive actions and impose costs. Thus, the Ministry for External Affairs (MEA) is reportedly burning the wires to convince friendly countries to pressure Islamabad to rein in terrorist outfits like the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Nursed by the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to fight its proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, JeM, in this instance, uploaded to the net the video of the suicide bomber Ahmed Dar’s last testimonial for the Jihadi cause filled with stock Jaish fulminations.
There are two factors that have emboldened Islamabad to stay with its enormously
successful strategy of covert warfare against the Indian state. Because it needs Pakistan to be the frontline state anchor for its policy of military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States will not risk alienating it by pushing the UN too hard in declaring the country a “state sponsor of terrorism”. China has stood four-square behind Pakistan for decades now, having nuclear missile-armed it and cultivated it as a near perfect foil to India’s regional ambitions and as a means of keeping India militarily preoccupied with the subcontinent. With the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, moreover, Beijing is realizing the expansive contours of its expansive Belt and Road Initiative that affords Chinese trade and military all-year access to the warm water port of Gwadar on the Balochistan coastline, and pleasing Islamabad is one of Beijing’s major aims. It thus avers with a straight face that Azhar Masood, the Jaish leader, does not fit the UN standard of terrorist and nor does Pakistan as state sponsor of terrorism. The overlapping of US and Chinese interests means Pakistan is immune to any external pressure that Delhi is able to mobilize and, in any case, can continue prosecuting its covert war in Kashmir using terrorist proxies.
As Delhi has lacked the wit over the years to utilize open trade and commerce with Pakistan to build-up stakeholders in the Pakistani Establishment for an entente cordiale with India, Modi’s decision to rescind the Most Favoured Nation status for Pakistan will have little impact because the bilateral trade of some $3 plus billion is small compared to its potential — $30 billion. There’s no other ready leverage that Delhi can wield considering the two countries are virtually on par as far as deployable conventional forces and their nuclear arsenals are concerned.
What is left is the dirty option of mounting intelligence operations to physically terminate leaders of anti-India terrorist outfits, such as Hafiz Sayeed and Azhar Masood. Such precision targeting to eliminate the terrorist leadership by covert means will have cascading effects on the morale of the radicalized youth in the Srinagar Valley who are in the forefront of the so-called intifada in Kashmir. This is a doable strategy that Delhi, for unknown reasons, seems loath to implement.
The other is to pay Pakistan back in the same coin: Stoke the ambitions of the mainly Pakhtuni Tehreeq-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its impulses to fight the Pakistan
army and state. Indeed, TTP’s fighting qualities are sufficiently developed and effective to simultaneously fight the Pakistan army in Pakistan and the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. It is a wonderful asset for India to support and grow with moral and materiel support, and to develop as a bargaining card when the two sides do sit down across the table to talk and hammer out a mutually acceptable solution for Jammu & Kashmir once the 2019 general elections are out of the way.
This one has occurred near election time, and that is what might affect the eventual course of events. Modi cannot afford to be seen as another blowhard (like his predecessors) by the public. My guess is that he will try to do something, even if it is not well thought out. The real question is what specific trajectory will things go down..
He is well aware that Pakistan does not have the wherewithal to invade India successfully. And yes, every prime-minister since 1972 has known that to be the case. However, he has a far different set of priorities than his predecessors. But coming back to your suggestion about delayed action- Modi simply cannot afford that option.
See.. if the BJP was riding a wave of electoral success or had more than a year left before next election, he might have chosen a different and more conservative path. But that is not the case. Instead, his only real hope of winning in 2019 now rests on humiliating Pakistan. To achieve that end, he might do something to goad Pakistan into attacking India.
Given the lack of tight control by Pakistani government over its tactical nuclear weapons and the almost certainty of India retaliating if that occurred- things could get interesting. While this not a likely scenario, most large wars in history took a life of their own once initiated. My guess is that Modi is likely to take a much bigger risk than his predecessors- since he has far less to lose and much more to gain.
The TTP option can be viable only if India takes the corollary step of active involvement in Afghanistan. The non-acceptability of the Durand line on both sides can be the raison d’etre for such a struggle but will have to be well funded and armed and can be done only by the Indian state. Letting the PA face a two front scenario would be a nightmare for them, a nightmare that India should give. Its costs, I will reason is eminently feasible by the Indian state in military, economic, political and geopolitical terms and its ROI sweet and lasting.
I am normally with you much of the time Bharat but your idea of entente with Pakistan via economic coordination and cooperation would be disastrous for India. A Pakistan on the economic upswing will almost assuredly utilize it’s growing coffers to fuel an unceasing amount of terror attacks and cross-border shelling, greater numbers of terrorists and Pakistani border forces will be equiped with increasingly sophisticated weaponry thereby posing a far more substantial threat than they do already. Just look at the amount and quality of tactical nuclear armaments Pakistan continues to fabricate , and this is while they are essentially bankrupt. One can only imagine the enhanced state of military affairs attained by an economically ascendant Pakistan. In fact any scenario featuring an economically ameliorated Pakistan would spell increasingly more trouble for India, directly proportional to the increased wealth of the former.
One has to understand the Islamic-Jihadi mindset, the Jihadis simply will not rest until they either convert us or destroy us or we end them. This is what Islam demands. Even relatively progressive Turkey has started to tilt towards a more harsh interpretation of the predominant religion . Liberal elites whether from India or outside of it will of course poo-poo this line of thinking and jump to characterize it as uneducated and alarmist. But nothing could be further from the truth. I suggest a careful reading of books and articles penned by the foremost scholar of Islamic history in the world, Daniel Pipes. He is serious, sober, non-bombastic and more often than not, right on the money. “The Closed Circle” by David Pryce Jones is also required reading.
Likely the most effective course of action is two-pronged; first, in the short to medium run, utilize economic policies which have the effect of diminishing the Pakistani economy. Second, foment severe and persistent internal discord in Pakistan along the fault lines of the four different provinces via RAW (This of course will not occur overnight). So much so that the threat of balkinization and ensuing chaos effectively forces the United States to secure Pakistani nuclear sites. The United States helped to create this monster, it is only fair that it be made to subdue it. Sadly, completely abrogating the Indus Water Treaty, a course of action supported by Subramaniam Swamy, seems like an ideal plan at first glance however it is not well thought out, as the Chinese could quite easily retaliate in kind. What India should ideally do is simultaneously offer nuclear payloads deliverable by the Brahmos missle to both Vietnam and the Philippines along with the aforementioned . It is unfortunate, India has to not only deal with a seemingly insouciant Pakistan but also grapple with the far greater threat, China. Onerous tarrifs on imports from China must also be considered where feasible. As an aside, if it had the will, the United States could greatly harm China by virtue of a permanent, well implemented tarrif strategy alone. After all, the USA imports from China far more than it exports to it.
The biggest mistake India has made in it’s relationship with Pakistan was allowing it to develop the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons, another gift from the Gandhi parivar. (Though in all fairness the United States must shoulder much of the blame for this.) Yet were Modi PM at the time I doubt the result today would be any different, 56 inch chest and all.
The Pakistani first-use policy now hangs over our collective heads like the sword of Damocles and severely circumscribes Indian military responses to terror attacks perpetuated by our truculent neighbor. Though in all likelihood it is simply a bluff, unsurprisingly one which India failed to methodically and incrementally test over the years.
As stated above, the optimal course of action going forward is to first but not foremost economically enervate Pakistan as much as realistically possible, it should never again possess MFN status and all Pakistani imports must be swiftly phased out. Economic warfare has to accompany covert warfare. However, India may not be able to damage Pakistan economically as much as it would like due to the fact that Pakistan, like India, possesses an economy geared largely towards internal production and consumption, it also gains from substantial Chinese aid. Trade between India and Pakistan is meager, not worth more than several billion dollars in aggregate, with Pakistan exporting significantly more than it imports. Nevertheless, trade should effectively be reduced to zero, it must be remembered that for a chronically destitute country like Pakistan, every little bit counts.
RAW must be allocated the resources to prosecute an open ended maximal intensity destabilization campaign in Pakistan, the Americans be damned. It’s high time India acted like an adult instead of following the unwritten policy of begging the USA
to admonish Pakistan each time a new terrorist attack presents itself on Indian soil.
How can a country that has historically refused to defend itself and which imports the vast majority of it’s arms, including fighter jets, despite having one of the largest economies in the world, be ever taken seriously? It’s preposterous to even
think of India occupying a seat on the U. N.
Security Council when it cannot effectively handle Pakistan, a country whose economy is several orders of magnitude smaller than our own! A long-term, full pressure covert campaign is the need of the hour.
There is a seething discontent under the surface which periodically boils over in Balochistan & NWFP, both chafing under Punjabi domination. There is also perpetual animosity with the Afghan government over the Durand line. These are all avenues RAW should seek to exploit, but no longer in a half-hearted way, as the GOI is so fond of doing. Major cities in Punjab and Sindh should also be targeted for covert operations. What will pay larger dividends, an exorbitantly expensive giant statue of Sardar Patel in the middle of nowhere or the fracturing of Pakistan incited by RAW? Apparently the honorable prime minister thinks it is the former!
India is without a doubt situated in a rough neighborhood but what has really hurt the country is historically poor leadership. And it seems as if nothing has changed, Modi has effectively centralized the GOI whereby most major decisions originate from his grey matter and from a precious few others all seemingly ensconced in a permanent echo chamber. He has extreme autocratic impulses and a thoroughly mediocre mind, lacking almost completely in vision and choosing to focus on boondoggles like a bullet train which costs a little less than half of the official defense budget! He could It’s quite funny actually, during the national election campaign Modi and the BJP frequently insinuated that Rahul Gandhi lacked the experience and the brains to occupy the PM’s post and while I do not personally disbelieve this, it should be amply clear by now to any level-headed watcher of Indian politics that Modi is the very fool we were afraid of. Like Bharat says, not much will change. Lions will continue to be led by lambs. Cry for India.
Sir.direct question?.please tell.Up to how much decades India will have to fight this proxy war and possibly at what timeline proxy war in kashmir ends on Indian terms .I really hope proxy war in kashmir will end before end of 21st centuary.Hope So