Raise Cost for Pak’s Rogue Army

On December 23, an officer and three soldiers of the Sikh regiment were ambushed and killed by the Pakistan army in the Rajouri sector of the Line of Control (LoC). Their bodies were reportedly mutilated. The Indian army responded appropriately.

Pakistan’s rogue army has mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers many times in the past in flagrant violation of the honour code of soldiering and the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

Despite the gravest of provocations over three decades of Pakistan’s war for Jammu and Kashmir by asymmetric means, India showed immense strategic restraint. After the terrorist attacks at the IAF airbase at Pathankot and the army camp at Uri, the army conducted surgical strikes at several terrorist camps across the LoC in September 2016 and caused extensive damage.

Since then, the policy has changed to one of tactical assertiveness under the umbrella of strategic restraint. The aim was to inflict punishment on the Pakistan army to raise its cost for the sponsorship of terrorism across the LoC as an instrument of state policy.

The experience since then, including a major increase in the number of infiltration attempts and violations of the mutually agreed cease-fire of November 2003, shows that the new policy has not worked effectively enough. Hence, it is necessary to formulate a comprehensive national-level strategy to counter Pakistan’s war for Kashmir.

The political aim should be to raise the cost for the ‘deep state’ for waging a continuous war, with a view to eventually making the cost prohibitive. Indian diplomacy should aim to isolate Pakistan in the international community and have Pakistan branded as a terrorist state by the UN Security Council. India should take the first step in this regard and itself make a declaration to this effect.

The aim of pro-active measures in the economic field should be to choke Pakistan’s economy. The imposition of unilateral economic sanctions and those by the UN Security Council should be considered. India could also use its buyer’s clout with defence MNCs to ensure that companies that sell weapons and defence equipment to India refrain from supplying these to Pakistan.

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 the army’s involvement or that of the ISI. For each subsequent act of terrorism the scale and the intensity of the dose should be increased by an order of magnitude. The level of military retaliation should be carefully calibrated to avoid escalation to large-scale conflict, which is not in India’s interest.

Operations should include artillery strikes to destroy bunkers on forward posts; stand-off PGM strikes on brigade and battalion HQ, communications and logistics infrastructure, ammunition dumps and key bridges; and, raids by Special Forces and border action teams (BATs). Every Pakistani post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble.

Firepower-heavy operations should be supplemented by covert operations by Special Forces as 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’.

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 J&K, 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), New Delhi. Views are personal.