The reaction to Uri attack has overwhelmingly been to ask for a swift retaliation. Any self-respecting citizen of any country cannot tolerate such an attack on its army. However, there is a reason that in the past, in case of attacks like this, India has refrained from retaliating in a similar way for a reason. It is time people realise that this cannot be played in a tit for tat manner but by considering all the variables in the equation.
Ever since the gap between the militaries between the two neighbours began to widen in terms of conventional warfare, Pakistan began to realise that it needs some other form of leverage to be able to compete with India. There were two ways to do this: 1. Nuclear weapons and 2. Proxy wars. We can now clearly see that they have adopted both of these options and also that there is one more component to this - Pakistan as a failing state.
Let us break down how Pakistan has used these ways and gained leverage not only on India, but also by a large degree on the US. If we were to take a worldwide poll to determine whether or not Pakistan should be designated as a failed state, the result would be that of in favour. But what many fail to realise is that Pakistan actually benefits from this. If Pakistan collapsed, the Islamic extremism would take hold of the state and the terrorist outfits like the Jaish-e-Mohammad (culprits of Uri attack) could get their hands on the nuclear weapons. The very thought of this alarms nations like the US who have seen first hand the destruction that nuclear weapons can bring. So what does Pakistan do? They claim that to help the country survive and to fight the “terrorist organisations” they need assistance. So here comes the aid. About 40 billion dollars till date from US alone, to give you an estimate.
Now let us come to the next part. Why can’t India retaliate? First of all, the purpose of all these attacks and blaming the Indian government for the Kashmir insurgency is to draw the world’s attention to Kashmir, the very thing that India wants to avoid. It does not want any foreign government or the UN to intervene in Kashmir which it sees as a bilateral issue. But Pakistan, it wants just the opposite. The Pakistan government wants to force a referendum at the very least for the Indian J&K people, which at current stage, is bound to go against the Indian government. The vote will most probably be for independent Kashmir, something which India simply cannot afford due to multiple reasons.
The first and the very obvious is that officially Kashmir was conceded to India. It would be suicidal to allow anything contrary to that to take place. The second reason is geography. India is protected from the north by the HImalayas. It has great strategic importance for national security. India. simply cannot take up the issue of independence of Kashmir owing to these two major reasons.
So what remains is, what can India do? Should it just take blow after blow from Pakistan while showing “strategic restraint” and do nothing? No, and the answer at this stage is: better intelligence and a diplomatic offensive. In the aftermath of 1999 Kargil war, India realised that Internalisation of an issue can indeed be favourable to its position. Most of the countries blamed Pakistan for that war and demanded that Pakistan retract its soldiers and respect the LOC. Even China did not come to help Pakistan which surprised many. This opened up a new dimension for the future Indo-Pak disputes. Pakistan has been desperately trying to raise the issue of Kashmir at the UN to get foreign intervention. And India’s response this time has been to raise issues within Pakistan (read: Balochistan) to blow the cover off Pakistan’s hypocrisy. For the time being, this is perhaps the right way to go. But there is one area where India is falling short - intelligence.
India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has earned its name for being able to identify and prevent a number of threats. But one area where it was fallen behind is the proxy wars that Pakistan employs. The ISI has often managed to slip past RAW’s defences and strike inside Indian territory. Pathankot attack in itself should have rung a lot of alarms in how we organise our defences and why do we constantly fail to anticipate or spot these attacks time after time. Another factor RAW’s communication within various intelligence agencies like the Intelligence Bureau (IB). In the Kargil war of 1999, RAW claimed that it had provided the input to the government but the political leadership failed to act in time. After an investigation it was revealed that there was severe communication issue between such agencies and the government which hampered the security. Could this have happened again? Clearly there are two areas of failure here - intelligence gathering and present security issues. We will go into the latter now.
In the Uri attack, the most obvious issue is security holes. The terrorists slipped inside the base and then started the attack. How did they get in? How do these terrorist attack a Military base? There is no other country of similar capabilities that has ever faced such a security crisis. If India’s military bases, which are supposed to be the most secure locations, can be attacked, then what about the other locations? What about the Supreme Court? Is it safe? Pride for the army aside, this simply cannot be ignored. There is an urgent need for a complete overhaul of the security for military bases and also perhaps set up an investigative agency. The Uri attack could not have happened without an insider’s help after all. The Army spokespersons claimed that the base was in the phase of transition. If that was the case, then it should have been even more protected, not to mention use of fire-safe tents.
India should never sit back while someone employs proxies to wage war against it but it should do so not on the battlefield (at least for now) but behind the scenes. Gathering intelligence, use of international stage to its advantage and urgently overhauling the security of its bases should be the priority. India should not be baited into conflict by Pakistan but should do strategic counter attacks from all the fronts to break down the walls behind which lies the hypocrisy and two-faced nature of the Pakistan government and their military. India can bide its time and strike when the opportunity is right but right now, we need to focus on the source of these attacks rather than on retaliating them. For the foreseeable future, doctrines like the “Cold start” are bound to gain more importance to counter such attacks. The trick is to keep the ball in your court and dictate the terms, to gain leverage and keep Pakistan looking over its shoulders. Pakistan’s strategy cannot survive in the longer run and there is a great chance that it itself will fall in the grave that it has dug for others.
Title image: Pri
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