What next India, ‘offence is the best defence’ or ‘defensive offence’
Column: Thinking Beyond
The question in our mind is what next and what will be the contours of India’s strategic response to terror, Pakistan and the world at large. As one columnist wrote, if there is one element in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy that may baffle foreign policy analysts, it has been his Pakistan policy. To my mind there is nothing baffling or strange in this, and to those who know well the nation’s dismay over the past many decades, at the belated responses and the confused foreign policy statements crafted by foreign policy specialists that oscillated between extremes of conciliation and retaliation, there is a big sigh of relief. In the past and unfortunately more often than not, our successive governments ended up playing to the galleries, alternately pleasing and frustrating both hawks and doves that made it very easy for terrorist and fissiparous agents sponsored by the Pakistan civil military establishment to take full advantage of the speculative and incoherent response of India.
The agonising attack on the Army camp at Uri, which left 19 soldiers dead, is not the first such attack but will prove to be the inflection point in India’s Pakistan policy. Statesmanship lies not in forecasting a country’s strategic response but in making this a turning point for a new strategic direction for the country that considers itself to be a great civilization on the cusp of achieving its past greatness. This may very well be an opportune moment to rethink, design, devise and drive a whole new paradigm for future engagements by India. So what is the ecosystem in store and what should be our strategic response in our best interest?
On India’s foreign Policy and diplomacy, kudos to a never seen before firmness and proactive stance both at the United Nations and bilaterally with over 22 countries. The P5 response has been unequivocal in support to India and this includes not only the American firm stance but also the Chinese muted and neutral reaction despite its own economic interest in the much touted economic corridor to Gadar Port. Similarly, on SAARC front India’s gambit to isolate and demoralise Pakistan has been a resounding success with the first salvo being, India’s boycott of the SAARC summit followed by others in the neighbourhood ensuring the summit’s demise. To add India’s BIMSTEC Summit at Goa would be a great step forward for the region minus Pakistan and it would do India well to invite Afghanistan for the meet.
On the economic front much is left to be done to review the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan though it really does not mean much under the existing World Trade Organisation regime and the message that it is not business as usual has been driven home. The Indus Water renegotiation and the existing Treaty though may not be abrogated anytime soon but the message is loud and clear that “blood and water cannot flow together
On the political front as with Prime Minister Narendra Modi much credit goes to the opposition and the diverse array of regional and sub-regional entities that came to strengthen the nations resolve in combating terror. On home front though the insolence of a section of media, intellectuals, leftist political pundits is indeed amazing. Above all the stand of a few Bollywood stars is unbelievable who believe in inviting Pakistani stars who do not even condemn terror and that leaves a spot on the conscience of a country that has faced the outrage of worst terror nightmares over the years. Indeed, the supreme sacrifice of our soldiers will be in vain in the wake of the national outrage is shocking. It defies logic as to why like Adnan Sami who is now a Indian citizen why so many in Bollywood continue to find reasons and does not stand up with the country and condemn terrorism.
Surgical strikes against the 7 odd LeT, JeM and the Haqqani’s terror camps at a distance of 1 to 3 kms in a 15 km area within the POK did catch Pakistan unaware and put it in a bind as these launch pads were not in Pakistan but in disputed territory. Pakistan’s immediate denial stance was on expected lines and was to address its local audience and as a face saving device before it counters India’s Special Forces’ tactical move with strategic implications. Let us have no doubt that this was a strike against terror that is backed by Pakistan’s civil military establishment and not against Pakistan per se and therefore its people should stand as one with India. This was the purport of the controlled but brilliant rhetoric of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the people of Pakistan just a day before the surgical strike.
What next? Yes, Pakistan’s retaliation, in all probability, will be a tactical one in the next few days and would rely heavily on the sleeper cell network to use diversionary tactics. Perhaps Hafiz Saeed will move in with a jihadi drive in tandem with Pakistan garnering international support in Kashmir against what they keep projecting as Indian atrocities. Though Pakistan has moved 5 Battalions to the eastern border with India which is a strain on its heavily committed resources on its eastern front but would refrain from launching a knee jerk offensive against India. On the diplomatic front Pakistan would remain isolated considering India’s diplomatic offensive coupled with economic and political clout but for China that has substantial stake in its economic corridor and the Gwadar Port. China would continue to veto India’s efforts in the United Nations Security Council and Pakistan would continue to use its ploy of nuclear gambit against India to achieve defence parity, Silent, covert and low attrition war will continue, as it is asymmetric and to India’s disadvantage with more to come before winter sets in. We should never underestimate a resolute and focussed enemy who will depend on a low intensity tactical strike to revalidate its stance on ‘ajadi’ in Kashmir valley. India will have to confront the enemy on political, diplomatic, economic and social front to converge on a military response best left to the military professionals as was the case post Uri.
The defensive offence doctrine of India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval banks on all out action on every front: diplomatic, economic, political and military but still the age old wisdom of ensuring that offence is the best defence holds true as has been proved once again. Thus the no first use nuclear doctrine that had emboldened Pakistan response against India needs to be ostensibly shelved at least for the time being. No wonder Pakistan’s bluster over truth was on expected lines but its tactical response against India will rely heavily on subversion and sabotage deep inside India and on unexpected spots. India has a never before opportunity cutting across political and religious lines to be united, vigilant and alert across its length and breadth and not the border alone. India’s response has to be undiluted, unrelenting based on its zero tolerance to terror policy unmindful of international reaction for a bold, new and confident India of tomorrow.
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