The terror attacks of 26/11 on Mumbai have left the nation traumatized. People are angry and confused and are awestruck by the sheer audacity and ferocity of a commando type raid at the very heart of India’s commercial capital. Evidence, as it unfolded, has left little doubt that this outrage has its origins in Pakistan which has been at the root of series of bombings, etc for many years. However this attack, starkly different in kind, comes as a rude reminder that things are going to get increasingly worse and that time has come for an open-eyed assessment of the basic realities and to devise suitable strategies. Hence the public outcry of “Enough is Enough”.
The conventional wisdom about dealing with a bully is that he should be confronted and hit back with maximum possible force in whichever way possible and wherever possible. It is pointless reasoning with him or appealing to his good sense or worst of all, appeasing him. That is not the language he understands.
In point of fact, it is a classic case of irresponsible acts and continued vengeful behavior by our neighbourbing country which has been emboldened by massive infusion of arms and funds from abroad. It has made itself an epicenter of terrorism in the world. Simply stated, what we are up against is a typical bully who has gone berserk and is getting bolder with every attack, and whose appetite for adventure is being whetted by continuing vacillation and weakness on our part as well as by deluge of arms from global powers. The conventional wisdom about dealing with a bully is that he should be confronted and hit back with maximum possible force in whichever way possible and wherever possible. It is pointless reasoning with him or appealing to his good sense or worst of all, appeasing him. That is not the language he understands. He only understands the language of force and counterforce.
Again, it is a mistake to expect others to control him or punish him on our behalf because it is the other powers that have found it expedient to build up his awesome fighting machine, which is the prime cause of his belligerence in the first place. When a state is being continually attacked and harassed by a predatory and warlike neighbour, at some point of time it has to stand up and decide to take retaliatory action with all its might so as to protect its peoples and property. If it fails to fulfill this basic responsibility, it is derogatorily labelled as a”soft state with porous borders” or a weak state which can be attacked by any and everybody with impunity. Such phenomenon has been alive on our sub-continent for half a century.
Pakistan was born out of religious intolerance and bigotry in 1947, since then, it has been a source of constant trouble, incursions, Kabaili raids, infiltrations, aids and abetments to insurgencies, hijackings, Kandhar, Kargil, assault on our embassy in Kabul and an unending trail of bombings and depredations. Unfortunately for various reasons the Indian response has been weak and vacillating, and mostly placatory and despite grave provocations, we have persevered in efforts to promote peace and friendship. However, the carnage in Mumbai on 26/11, has come as the rudest shock of all. Hence the sense of outrage in the entire country and a public clamour for retaliation.
We have to decide once and for all that henceforth all our policies must take into account the fact that Pakistan is an enemy state and that we may never expect anything but trouble and enmity from that quarter.
What are our options? First, war is not a viable option at the present juncture for a number of reasons. It is really the logical and the ultimate solution, and we may well be ultimately forced to exercise this option. However, considering the nuclear dimension and other constraints , in the foreseeable future, our options would perforce be restricted to limited offensive action only, in short, a warlike option short of full fledged war. One variant with potential is “strategy of counter strike”, i.e., a policy of instant and punitive strike whenever a Pak or Pak inspired attack takes place—a measured response commensurate with the provocation in question but delivered at a point of our choosing, for which a number of targets would have been previously selected keeping in view the enemy’s vulnerability and ensuring that we strike where it hurts most. So, there is also an element of “strategy of indirect approach”.
The concept is that of inflicting assured and unacceptable punishment thereby raising the costs of cross border adventurism to him, and hence, a credible deterrent. This strategy will require building up of requisite capability including acquisition of advanced weaponry (eg, drone directed precision missiles), training, secrecy and a very high degree of readiness, together with first rate real time intelligence. The strategy also pre-supposes preparedness for the inevitable escalation all the way to an all-out war. This is the only feasible alternative open to us given our constraints and capacity and it should work. Knowing Pak psyche, there is little doubt that soon, after one or two such ripostes, they will get the message and find it prudent to rein in their military, and various Lashkars and ‘non-state’ elements. All that is required is steely political will on our part and a clear direction to the military who should then be given the freedom to work out the modalities and ensure timely implementation.
We have probably missed the opportunity for a surgical strike of this nature in the present situation. In such matters, time is of essence and so is an element of surprise. In any case it will take time to prepare and build up the required capacity. In the meantime, and as an essential part of the overall strategy, there are many defensive measures which should be taken on the highest priority. First and foremost,we must ensure effective security of our land and maritime borders and air space, to the extent of making them impregnable. We should freeze all cross border movement of men and material, seal all road and rail links, stop-over flight by Pak civil/military aircraft—in effect turn a weak India with porous borders into a strong impregnable “Fortress India” alongwith a department for “Home Land Security” at ministerial level, fully empowered and adequately supported and staffed by professionals from services, police, intelligence and so on.
…the Pak Monster is a creation of super powers who have been persistently pumping in vast resources of arms and funds.
Logically, sealing of borders should also be backed by formal suspension or severance of all relations with Pakistan: diplomatic, cultural, commercial, etc. All this, of course, will be backed by a coordinated tri-service military plan for effective defence.
These are going to be hard decisions and require resolute leadership and a careful analyses of political implications but the scale and nature of attack in Mumbai, coming after years of attacks and bombings, have raised the bar to an extraordinary and totally unacceptable level. By all accounts, we have come to a defining moment in our history and a watershed in Indo-Pak relations. It has been aptly described as an “attack on the very soul and idea of India”.
Therefore, we have to decide once and for all that henceforth all our policies must take into account the fact that Pakistan is an enemy state and that we may never expect anything but trouble and enmity from that quarter. In short, total reversal of the moth-eaten and defunct concept of “Indo-Pak friendship”. This concept is dead and finished. Perhaps it never existed except in our imagination or wishful thinking. In short, this carnage has come as a rude awakening analoguous to our trauma vis-à-vis China in 1962.
Bangladesh is fast emerging as another Pakistan with rampant establishment of jihadi or terrorist camps. There is also ample evidence of Bangladeshi terrorists operating in sync with Pak terrorist groups.
It is unfortunate that we have had to come to this juncture, but this reality check has really been long overdue and something which we should have realized after Kargil and Kandhar. That we have kept taking things lying down for so many years despite a torrent of attacks, must be a source of hilarious amazement to Pak leaders. No wonder then that the nation demands action and is not satisfied with the usual expressions of sorrow and assurances by our leaders that the government will take strict action. The public will accept nothing less than decisive and extraordinary steps to meet the extraordinary provocation. Indeed it is a wake-up call to the government, its bloated civil establishment, much vaunted and over-empowered bureaucracy, hordes of intellectuals and near geniuses, thousands of over active politicians and the third largest military in the world. A nation of one billion is on trial.
Imperatives of ensuring impregnable borders makes timely and urgent sense for a number of reasons. Pakistan seems to be on the verge of total meltdown or break up. There is also a real danger of the entire country becoming Talibanised as presaged by lengthening shadow of Taliban over Pakistan. Either way, we will be faced by prospects of a flood of refugees and in their wake and garb, thousands of insurgents and infiltrators. In another scenario, the pressure of operations by US/NATO forces in Afghanistan is likely to squeeze out hordes of fleeing and ‘unemployed’ Taliban/Al-Quaida who will desperately seek havens in India and Kashmir with active support and eager connivance of the infamous ISI of Pakistan. In this regard, special mention must be made of the situation on our eastern borders which demands even more immediate attention as there is an ongoing, mass ingress of refugees and illegals from Bangladesh threatening unfavourable change of demographic pattern on the borders.
The problem is being further vitiated by local practitioners of “vote bank politics” and with unscrupulous politicians arranging for issue of false IDs and ration cards. In point of fact Bangladesh is fast emerging as another Pakistan with rampant establishment of jihadi or terrorist camps. There is also ample evidence of Bangladeshi terrorists operating in sync with Pak terrorist groups. In the broader perspective, Bangladesh is fast emerging as a third front of war for us, much to the satisfaction and glee of Pakistan. An equally grave situation has been building in the Terai and on the Indo-Nepal border. India has traditionally followed an open border policy with Nepal which demands reconsideration in view of Maoist takeover, enhanced influence of China and hence an atmosphere conducive to Pak infiltration into Northern UP-Bihar regions. As it is, the problem of fake currency pushed across by Pakistan into India is assuming alarming proportions.