Escalation dynamics after ‘surgical strikes on terrorists’ by India: An analysis

Post surgical strikes against ‘terrorists and their supporters’ by India, there have been plethora of articles/debates/views/statements on various aspects covering the run 05firing3up to the military action and possible reactions of Pakistan to it. An objective analysis to include managing of escalation ladder is worth an attempt from strategic perspective.

Pakistan has tried every possible attempt to destabilize Kashmir Valley mainly by nurturing, training, infiltrating, and supporting terrorists in Kashmir valley and other parts of India, over few decades, more so after getting emboldened by acquisition of tactical nuclear weapon technology, presuming that a democratic India will not take the rimedq7hjhiffsisk of crossing Line of Control / IB, if they continue to threaten the use of tactical nukes in retaliation, thereby developing a false sense of security of having rendered Indian conventional armed forces ineffective to control the proxy war initiated by them. Kashmir has become a rallying point by all leaders in power in Pakistan (Civil and Military) since many decades, and this strategy seemed to have worked, till it crossed the threshold of Indian capacity of tolerance, and no positive response of all diplomatic peace initiatives of India. Militant attack in Uri and actions of terror industry created by ISI including paid stone palters and crowd organizers to show dissent as local uprising to international humanitarian organizations, are part of this terror industry, which has got used to easy money from ISI and extortion of locals.

The successful surgical strikes on “Terrorists  and their supporters” by Indian Armed Forces, has basically demonstrated the National Intention, Will, and Capacity to exercise hard power to break the myth that India will not chase militants and their supporters across the LoC/IB due to nuclear hangover. In doing so India has shown extreme maturity with no collateral damages and given Pakistani leadership and Army a face saver by calling it an operation against “Terrorists and their supporters” and not a war against Pakistan/Pakistani Army, because a Pakistan living with semblance of democracy and an Army claiming to be protecting and binding them together is still a better situation for world peace than a failed Pakistan under Jihadists. The Armed Forces, political hierarchy, and others involved need to be commended for its success.

Denial propaganda by Pakistan of such successful operation by India is on expected lines, because the political cost of accepting it is too heavy for Pakistani leadership, and Army, which has been surviving on the confidence due to their nuclear bluff, and cannot score a self goal by accepting that the line was crossed and they trembled in using nuke. Their counter propaganda has not been bought by anybody in the world because as per them, if it was routine firing (as brought out in their news papers) and the line was not crossed, where was the need for Pakistani Defence Minister to threaten India with use of nukes(Pakistan TV SAMAA), Prime Minister to call emergency meeting of cabinet, and five SAARC nations to pullout from the summit? If Pakistan was genuinely fighting ‘war on terrorism’ then it should have cooperated with India in hunting down the terrorist camps, instead of getting agitated about it, unless some of its state elements were involved, which they have not admitted openly.  A further repetition of nuclear threat is doing more harm to them by exposing their instability, irrationality and threat of accessibility of such weapons to militants causing grave concerns globally, besides making Indian Military and public better prepared for it.

The synergized political, diplomatic and military effort by India, clearly indicates that the escalation contingencies have been thought through up to a number of levels. The terrorists and their supporters!! have no choice, but to react, if they have to justify their existence/dominance and keep the terror industry alive. The future escalation will be incumbent on the type of reaction, as India will give suitable response by comprehensive use of ‘National Power’, besides immediate action using hard power. A military response may well be met by harder military response, and diplomatic and political response is also likely to be on similar lines.  Creating infrastructure to extract every ounce of water permissible by Indus Water Treaty, just short of abrogating it, will make Pakistan quite uncomfortable, because their Punjab has got used to extra water due to Indian generosity, and it will impact its leadership, majority of which comes from that area, is a significant step in this regard. Diplomatic isolation of Pakistan on the issue of propagating/harboring terrorist industry is another such area, as the humanity has suffered enough from it.

Resolving proxy war by Pakistan against India will have to be undertaken by India, to meet our National Interest, without looking upon anyone except for moral and diplomatic support. The space for conventional war very much exists in the environment of nuclear hangover, and the options available need to be put in place, should Pakistan decide to escalate the situation. If Pakistan understands only hard power, our response has to be calibrated accordingly and India seems to be determined and prepared for it. Everyone understands that war is not a good and economical option, and India has made it clear that no more actions will follow, if no more terrorist activities take place.

Some newspapers (Times of India 02 Oct 2016) are reading too much into China factor. The technical hold on JeM Chief was initiated by China, when no such strike had taken place; hence with no change in diplomatic situation, its extension is no surprise. In absence of any water treaty between India and China, and China itself facing shortage of water and power, an act to extract more water out of Brahmaputra in their territory should not surprise us, after all the Yarlung Zangbo Project was announced long back, only part of it has been completed and a major portion is yet to be completed (Xinhua). In existing circumstances siding Pakistan for nuclear strike or terrorist strike openly may be difficult for China, however all other kinds of support will continue irrespective of the fact weather India strikes or otherwise. China’s reactions need to be read in relation to her strategic equation with India, and if we have opposed CPEC, which we should continue to oppose  in our national interest to protect our sovereignty, some diplomatic obstructions from China will continue and will have to be taken in a stride.

The onus to live peacefully without propagating proxy war or terrorism in India, or escalate the tension lies with Pakistan. India can be expected to respond based on level of escalation each time. Let us hope that some good sense prevails and Pakistan behaves in much more responsible manner than what it has done so far, so that we have more peaceful South Asia.

Maj Gen Asthana

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