After the successful September 29 Indian strikes across the Line of Control, we should remember that while cross-LoC “badla” (revenge) strikes by both sides’ Border Action Teams have been going on from 1990s till 2014, this was the first time India conducted large-scale coordinated, multi-pronged strikes, using multiple special forces teams, backed up by “Ghatak” (commando) teams of local infantry battalions, who struck seven terror launchpads, widely separated across a 250-km front. The other difference was that India announced it, and showed readiness to face Pakistani retaliation, calling the “bluff” of Pakistan’s defence minister who had on September 27 threatened to use nuclear weapons against any “Indian aggression”. Thus, an outmanoeuvred and confused Pakistan Army, aware that two US Senators had moved a bill to “declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism”, immediately denied that India had carried out any cross-LoC surgical attack, to save itself from a public backlash, and buy time for bloody retaliation, through “deniable, expendable terrorists”, while providing military security to terrorists Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin, to protect them from a possible Indian decapitating strike.
Having participated in the same India-Pakistan nuclear Track-2 dialogue with Mohan Guruswamy, I agree with his October 10 article Consider Pak’s redlines rationally, and I believe that India has more space for escalating conventional retaliation, without crossing Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. I also agree that India needs to review its “massive” nuclear retaliation no-first-use doctrine to make it more credible.
Pakistani terror attacks are likely to continue for decades, till it either disintegrates, or its friend China convinces the Pakistan military to give peace a chance.
Given Islamabad’s importance to Beijing because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (it has pledged to invest $51 billion in Pakistan), and its importance to the United States and Britain as a “bridge” to the oil-rich Middle East, Pakistan will continue to receive money and weapons from the West and from China, and is likely to remain a headache for many years. India should recall an interview by then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in 2003, when he said: “Even if Kashmir is resolved, low intensity conflict with India will continue, because India is a hegemonic power.” In another interview at the opening of the first phase of Gwadar port, Gen. Musharraf had stated: “In the event of war, Pakistan will not hesitate to give Gwadar port facilities to the Chinese Navy.”
This basically means that the Pakistan Army has the long-term goal of dismembering India through low-intensity conflict. At present, 200,000 Pakistani troops (about 35 per cent of its 550,000-strong Army) are deployed in counter-insurgency operations on Pakistan’s western front — Waziristan and Balochistan, so therefore Pakistan is in no position to fight a conventional war against India. India must ensure about 40 per cent of Pakistan’s Army is kept busy on its western front, and for this it must actively help Afghanistan, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan with moral, diplomatic support and asylum for Baloch leaders. In this Pakistan’s undeclared “1,000-year war of bleeding India by 1,000 cuts”, India must be ruthless, and fight fire with fire.
By October 1, India was already exploring other non-military means to bring pressure on Pakistan — reviewing the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, relooking its 1996 Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan, reviewing cancelling all Pakistan International Airlines flights from Delhi to Lahore. Regarding the Indus treaty, even utilising the legally permitted 3.6 million acre feet water for power generation, irrigation, etc. will take 20 years to fructify, given the nature of the terrain in Kashmir and the quantum of work involved. The Saarc meeting in Islamabad in November was cancelled, and as Pakistan is considering creating an alternative to Saarc (with China, Iran, the Central Asian Republics), perhaps its time for Pakistan to be expelled from Saarc. Also recently, the media reported China had extended by another three months its “technical hold” on India’s proposal to the UN to declare Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a terrorist. The same day, China had reportedly decided to block or dam a tributary of the Brahmaputra river as part of a new giant hydroelectric project which had begun in 2014.
It is clear that a new long-term policy needs to be put in place to thwart threats from Pakistan, terror and China. This will require immediate promulgation of a new “Modi doctrine” that gives freedom to local frontline military and paramilitary commanders to take immediate proactive actions to neutralise any looming cross-LoC threat within 20 km of the LoC, by artillery, mortars or cross-border strikes, while retaliating robustly to cross-border firing.
Since September 29, a total of 26 cross-LoC firing incidents have emanated from Pakistan, and its terrorists have struck four Army-BSF posts and one BSF patrol unsuccessfully. About 250 terrorists are reported to be ready for strikes in Kashmir in the current festive season. Perhaps the time has come for India to retaliate again.
The largely home-built Indian Navy and Coast Guard have an overwhelming numerical and qualitative superiority over their Pakistani rivals, and this needs to be exploited to deter Pakistan. Also, as the Chinese GDP and defence budget are five times that of India, and this disparity will last till around 2050, India must deter China by increasing our nuclear arsenal from its present estimated 110, so that all 180 major Chinese cities can be targeted. To meet these security challenges, India needs a hike in the defence budget from the present 1.74 per cent of GDP to about three per cent. Time and changing world opinion, combined with India’s growing comprehensive national power, will ensure that India will win this long, bloody battle against terror.