Surgical Strikes should Follow Terror Acts by Pakistan in Future

Like panthers prowling in the dead of night, several teams of the Special Forces of the Indian army crossed the Line of Control (LoC) on the night of 28 September. They struck with deadly effect and, as quietly as they had come in, they exfiltrated back across the LoC.

In his briefing after the attack in Uri on 18 September, the DGMO had said that the army “reserves the right to respond” to the terrorist strike at Uri at a time and place of its choosing. It took ten days to plan the operation, which was based on accurate intelligence.

Strong Message to Pakistan’s Deep State

While the credit for the success of these complex operations goes to the officers andjawans of the Special Forces, the Prime Minister and the members of the Cabinet Committee on Security also deserve to be complimented for giving the go-ahead to the army to launch trans-LoC raids on terrorist training camps. For the first time since the 1971 war with Pakistan, the political leadership of the country has exhibited firm national resolve.

For three decades, the Pakistan army and the ISI — known as the deep state — have been waging a proxy war against India as part of their strategy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts. Neither after the attack on Parliament in December 2001 nor after the multiple terrorist strikes at Mumbai in November 2008 did India choose to address the perpetrators of terrorism in Pakistan and PoK.

Uri Attack was the Last Straw

So far India has conducted its counter-proxy war campaign within its borders and on its own side of the LoC. While the strategic restraint shown by India despite grave provocation enabled the country to keep the level of conflict low, and sustain a high rate of economic growth, it did not succeed in creating any disincentives for Pakistan’s deep state.

The terrorist attack on the air force base at Pathankot on New Year’s day could be deemed to have once again crossed India’s red lines. Despite that, the Indian government gave Pakistan yet another opportunity to make amends by inviting an investigation team to come to Pathankot to evaluate the evidence of Pakistani involvement that India had provided. The attack at Uri was the last straw and the rules of the game have now changed.


Wanton Killing of Civilians Won’t be Tolerated

By launching trans-LoC strikes on terrorist training camps with its Special Forces, India has sent several messages to Pakistan.

1.  Firstly, the present Indian government will not tolerate the wanton killing of innocent Indian civilians or soldiers by state-sponsored terrorists from Pakistan.

2. Secondly, the surgical strikes are a warning to the Pakistan army that if it does not put an end to cross-border terrorism, it may expect an even more vigorous Indian response.

Strategy to Counter Pakistan’s Proxy War

India has exercised a range of political, diplomatic, economic and military options in response to the terrorist attack on Uri. These include cancellation of the SAARC summit and indefinite postponement of the next meeting of the Indus Waters Treaty Commissioners. Other measures pertaining to the Indus Waters Treaty and the MFN status given to Pakistan are under consideration of the government. However, what is necessary is to formulate a comprehensive national-level strategy to counter Pakistan’s proxy war.

The political aim should be to raise the cost for Pakistan’s deep state for waging its proxy war with a view to eventually making the cost prohibitive. The aim of Indian diplomacy should be to isolate Pakistan in the international community and work towards having the country branded as a terrorist state by the UN Security Council.

Future Course of Action

The military aim should be to inflict punishment on the Pakistan army deployed on the LoC for every act of terrorism on Indian soil for which there is credible evidence of its involvement or its organs such as the ISI. For each subsequent act of terrorism, the scale and the intensity of the dose should be increased by an order of magnitude.

Military operations designed to inflict punishment should include artillery strikes with guns firing in the ‘pistol gun’ mode to destroy bunkers on forward posts with minimum collateral damage; stand-off PGM (precision-guided munition) strikes on brigade and battalion HQ, communications centres, logistics infrastructure, ammunition dumps and key bridges; and, raids by Special Forces and Border Action Teams (BATs). Every Pakistan post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble by artillery fire.

Continuing Covert Operations

Counter-proxy war operations should be supplemented by covert operations. Since Pakistan is not inclined to bring to justice the leaders of terrorist organisations like the LeT and the JeM, terrorists whom they call ‘strategic assets’, they must be neutralised through covert operations.

When the Pakistan army begins to hurt and bleed, gradually the deep state will realise the futility of its nefarious designs on India. While Pakistan may not give up its claims on Jammu and Kashmir, it will be forced to come to the negotiating table to discuss a long-term solution to the dispute through peaceful means.

(The writer is Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi. He can be reached at @gurmeetkanwal. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)