Launch pro-active strategy to counter Pak's proxy war

A moment comes in the history of a nation when the most hardened political leader, the calmest bureaucrat and the most balanced analyst is driven by his gut judgment, and not by his reasoning.

The Pakistan Army and ISI-sponsored fidayeen attack on an Army camp in Uri on September 18 that resulted in the martyrdom of 18 soldiers, is one such emotive moment. Though all the four fidayeen were killed and at least 10 more terrorists neutralised since then in the Uri sector, that is cold comfort for an Army at the receiving end of large-scale casualties in a single incident.

India's red lines were crossed when the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot was attacked. India continued to exercise strategic restraint. The government allowed Pakistan access to the base and gave its investigative agencies hard evidence of the involvement of the terror organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed and the ISI, but Pakistan remained in denial. The attack at Uri, likely by Pakistan's Special Forces personnel in the garb of JeM terrorists, is simply unacceptable to any citizen of India.


The words that ring in the ears and reso-nate in the heart are all primordial in nature: revenge, retribution, retaliation, reprisal, payback time etc. The thought that comes to mind is that when diplomacy has failed to deliver the desired results and the adversary is bent on launching terrorist strikes on Indian territory, it is time to let the guns do the talking. And, under certain circumstances, the guns make good ambassadors.

The TV anchors, commentators, Twiterrati and thousands of other social media users have vented their frustration at the absence of a military response. While military retaliation of an appropriate intensity is necessary, it should be part of a carefully formulated long-term counter-proxy war strategy. Knee-jerk reactions never ever lead to a suitable response.

Clearly, India's carefully calibrated strategy to fight Pakistan's proxies within its own borders and on its own side of the LoC, in order to keep the level and the intensity of conflict low and maintain a stable environment for rapid economic growth, has not yielded the desired dividends.

Despite itself facing insurmountable internal security challenges, the Pakistan Army and the ISI - together constituting the 'deep state' - have been engaged in a low-intensity limited war against India for almost three decades. The increasing attempts at infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) and the spurt in encounters with terrorists in the Kashmir Valley recently show that Pakistan's war, including strikes against Indian assets in Afghanistan, is continuing unabated.

India should evolve and pursue a comprehensive, multi-pronged strategy to gradually force Pakistan to stop waging war through LeT and JeM terrorists. Firstly, efforts must be made to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state by the United Nations as it is the epicentre of international terrorism.

A beginning should be made by India itself taking the first step and declaring Pakistan a terrorist state. This will involve recalling the Indian High Commissioner from Islamabad and other connected actions, for which India must prepare. Simultaneously, India should initiate measures to isolate the Pakistan army internationally as a rogue army for the acts of terrorism that it perpetuates along with the ISI.

Failing satisfactory progress, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should be approached to approve an embargo on the sale of arms, ammunition and military equipment to Pakistan. If the UNSC resolution is vetoed by China, India should use its buyers' clout to ensure that arms manufacturers who supply weapons and defence  eq-uipment to India stop doing so to Pakistan.

Secondly, on the military front, India should 'hit to hurt' the Pakistan Army. For every act of terrorism on Indian territory with credible evidence of the involvement of the Pakistan Army and the ISI, carefully calibrated military strikes must be launched against the Pakistan Army on the LoC where it can be repeatedly hit.

Artillery strikesThese should include artillery strikes to destroy bunkers on forward posts with minimum collateral damage; stand-off precision-guided munition (PGM) strikes on brigade and battalion headquarters, communications centres, logistics infrastructure, ammunition dumps and key bridges by fighter aircraft and attack helicopters; and, raids by Special Forces and Border Action Teams (BATs). Every Pakistan Army post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble by artillery fire. The cease-fire on the LoC is being violated on a daily basis by Pakistan and is now meaningless.


Thirdly, covert operations should be launched to bring to justice leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and JeM - Pakistan's so-called strategic assets - which are on India's wanted list. These operations should be based on hardcore 'actionable' intelligence and should be sanctioned at appropriate levels. Finally, when the time is appropriate, India should begin to re-engage the elected civilian leadership of Pakistan with a view to resolving the intractable disputes between the two countries and to reduce the salience of the Pakistan Army in the country's polity.

The international community that is already tiring of Pakistan's shenanigans in Afghanistan, will not need too much convincing to accept that the time has come to stop mollycoddling the Pakistan Army on the ground that it must be supported in order to ensure that its nuclear weapons do not fall into jihadi hands.

This strategy should be implemented on a sustained basis. It will force the Pakistan Army to stop its sponsorship of terrorism fairly quickly. If it does not, it would be time to raise the ante and consider tougher measures such as the abrogation of the Indus Waters Treaty. However, such a drastic step may not be necessary.

(The writer is Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)