Prime Minister Modi has found himself in what can safely be called the defining moment of his Prime Ministerial tenure. It is a crisis for multiple reasons, some of which will find space in this piece as well, but its handling and moulding to come out on top is what would be the top concern for the PM.
Most defence strategists in the world, would refrain from advocating war and would weigh all options carefully. If the benefits of peace and of war stand equally in returns, one must resort to peace.
War is merely an extension of politics where the means take a different shape and is always the last option. It is not just winning through military might but having an impact politically such that the retaliation fails entirely.
India has seen Kargil, which was a territorial threat, Parliament attack, which was a strike on the country’s political power centre and the Mumbai attacks, which had paralysed the commercial capital of the country.
Uri attack has boiled our blood for many reasons. The number of casualties is the highest in recent times but we have also ceased to remember that Kashmir is one of the most sensitive regions in the world and its defense has its cost.
75 policemen lost their lives in an ambush by left-wing insurgents in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district in 2010, for instance. The country has seen death before. So why have the war cries have become louder in the last five days?
Blaming it only on the presence of Social media and a more connected India would be having a limited view of things. It is one of the reasons but have the BJP leadership been smart? Congress leaders and former ministers may have been egging the govt at the centre for replies quoting Shah “not even a rat would be allowed to cross the LoC if Modi becomes PM”, but the response from BJP general secretary Ram Madhav: “The days of so-called strategic restraint are over… for one tooth, the complete jaw,” and Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office: “Those who put India’s confidence to test will be given a befitting response. Not responding will be an act of cowardice” have fueled the fire, which the BJP shall find hard to douse.
There is anger over the Uri attack and there’s no denying that, however, most people vehemently professing war have only viewed the event in isolation.
It has been almost 80 days of curfew and bandh since Burhan Wani was killed by security forces.
These 80 days also have seen 78 deaths in the valley. All through this 80-day period there have been 19 unsuccessful attempts by terrorists to strike army camps.
There was no damage done in the 19 but the timing and lack of understanding of how classified info about presence of army personnel at Uri was leaked led to the heavy loss of 18 men.
What can be done – 1
Trying to make the world realise that Pakistan has been funding terrorism in India through money, men and material has not worked. Going to war immediately would be walking right into Pakistan’s trap. Military action is definitely an option that needs exercising but needs clear judgement.
Nawaz Sharif’s three letters to the United Nations failed to elicit any response from either Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon or the Security Council. Though succeeding diplomatically, even support from the aforementioned nations has not stopped Pakistan in promoting terrorism and the Uri attack only makes it obvious that India will need to do something on its own.
Much has been spoken about economic sanctions but the likeliness in denting Pak’s economy stands a little chance. India in the past halted air and land trade in 2001 after the Parliament attack but things changed shortly after. Trade has grown after the sanctions. According to a report in India Today, the direct overland trade stood at $2.6 billion in 2013, heavily loaded in India’s favour with $2 billion in exports from India. Pakistan, however, managed to create a trade route via Dubai to trade with India where the indirect trade stands at an estimated $4.7 billion today.
Such routes will always exist or will be created and this is why economic sanctions will not work.
A war cannot be waged simply to satisfy the demands of emotionally charged citizens of a country. War must and only must be a means to achieve political and strategic objectives. A part of Kashmir, today called the PoK is a result of war that benefits Pakistan, not India.
PM Modi needs to have a clear objective to go to war. What can be achieved through war needs clear definition not to mention the strategy. Both the countries are nuclear capable and thus an all out war cannot be an option, specially since reports in the past have suggested that Pakistan may have more nuclear warheads than India.
Isolation on the international front diplomatically has worked. During ceasefire violations, after PM Modi came to power, the retaliation has been heavier without any chest thumping and such tactics are automatically more economical. India ha no reason to act foolish the way Pakistan does.
As mentioned earlier, there have been bigger terror attacks when India did not go to war. How can anyone possibly justify to the world about a war over the cowardly killing of 18 army men?
The objectives of a war thus need to be clear.
Does India want to regain PoK, which is legally India’s considering J&K’s owner acceded to India and Pakistan took by force?
Does India want to clear our the terrorist camps in the PoK?
Or does India want to simply kill the same number of men in Paksitani Army and mollify the nation’s anger?
This is the decision that Modi can be remembered for. A true leader will always be able to foresee the consequences because the leader engages in an unbiased review of their own country’s capability and those of the rival’s. The loss of men and money, and profits and danger, can easily define if a nation should march into war.
The cost of a nuclear war may finish Pakistan economically but would send India into the dark ages.
India’s major cities would be devastated in this scenario. A nuclear war is something India does not want to get into; its possible consequences beggar description.
Covert action is a plausible, meaningful course to be followed and is the least risky. However, such operations cannot be brought to surface and thus the mileage that Modi may want out of such action would be out of reach unless India decides to make things public. If such action is to be made public then it warrants a negative eye from every corner of the world too!
Line of Control can be targeted in an effective manner though. A general mentions how the 2013 incident of soldier beheadings was avenged a few months later. The army struck at a time and place of its choosing and a strong message went across the border that such incidents wouldn’t go unpunished.
It has been reported that there was a surgical strike done in the LoC region where a team of elite commandos neutralised 20 men in response to Pakistan’s knack for adventure but such strikes can only assuage anger, and not put an end to Pakistan’s future involvement in terrorism.
China would not poke its nose in a military exchange between India and Pakistan. China was encouraged to intervene during the 1971 war by the US but Beijing declined. China had recently only reiterated that it would not engage in a war between India and Paksitan. For the time being it is not a problem since China’s entire foreign policy rests on this but the China factor and and likely would become a problem in future.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan was launched last year and includes highways and railway lines as well as energy projects estimated at a cost of approximately $46 billion. If achieved, the CPEC will become the defining factor dictating China’s relation with India as well as Pakistan.
China’s inputs in Pakistan would make China’s interests in Pakistan more pervasive, not to mention of controlling nature. This means any disturbance in Pakistan could get Chinese interests disturbed.
Threats to the project, involving such high stakes, by India can, however, make sure that India can get China to control Pakistan to reduce tensions with its neighbours translating into safety of the project.
What can be done – 2
The exist cost of a war needs to be estimated. It is cheaper to bear the cost of a terror attack than go in for a provocative response.
Even with three decades of terrorism, India has been a far more successful state than Pakistan. India can focus on economic reform as running so far ahead of Pakistan that it is left behind by a century.
An effective security system that repels surgical strikes needs to be put in place. As the attacks in Uri and Pathankot have shown, India is still not able to secure its armed forces bases, leave alone civilian establishments.
An attack now does not guarantee that there would not be a counter-attack of greater intensity by terrorists. The biggest requirement is the stability of defences such that the neighbour cannot find ways to attack.
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