Military & Aerospace

‘Out of box options’ needed to deal with Pakistan’s Proxy War, post Indian Air Strikes
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 09 Mar , 2019

Mirage-2000

Backdrop

India has suffered enough of Proxy War since last 30 years, which continues in Imran’sNaya Pakistan’ with same vigor as hitherto fore.  The surgical strikes launched in 2016 post terrorist attack on Uri, was the first signal that India has changed its strategy of being Defensive’ as a responsible country, to adopting ‘Offensive Defense’ for protection of its citizens from Pakistan sponsored Proxy War through the terrorist groups like JeM, LeT, HM and others. They continue infiltrating into India with the help of Pakistani Army and ISI, kill innocent people and lure the youth of Kashmir towards misplaced version of Jihad, after a prolonged dose of radicalization through Madarsas on the name of education. Some segments of the youth of Kashmir find a reason to be lured by money and privileges offered to them. Absence of any worthwhile industries due to lack of investors due to provisions like Article 370, deterring any sensible industrialist to invest in Kashmir is another reason of growing fundamentalism.

The recent fidayeen attack on the CRPF convoy resulting martyrdom of 40 CRPF jawans claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which has the patronage of the Pakistan Army and ISI, proved that proxy war against India has become the state policy of Pakistan. JeM has not denounced the attack which brought India to its limit of tolerance; hence India had no other option but to give a befitting response. Although the terrorists who executed this attack were eliminated but the intelligence reports of many more likely actions of this kind convinced  India thatsurgical treatment of the terrorists is required by complete application of ‘Comprehensive National Power’ (CNP) of India, because Pakistan was unlikely to take any action against them.

The Air Strikes and Aftermath

On February 26, 2019, A set of 12 Mirage 2000 aircraftssupported by other aircrafts, carried out pinpoint precision strikes using SPICE-2000 guidance kit fitted on conventional bombs, making them highly accurate ‘smart bombs’ carrying out this daring raid/surgical airstrike to destroy the largest training camp of JeM. The strikes were non-military, preemptive action, specifically targeted at the JeM camp at Balakot in Khyber-PakhtunkhwaProvince deep inside Pakistan territory. The target chosen was a training camp located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence, to avoid civilian casualties. India also indicated its desire of no further escalation, as the strike was directed against the terrorist group responsible for Pulwama attack and not against the state of Pakistan, its establishment or its people.  The air strikes had the desired effects as it is learnt that 80 percent of bombs struck at the precise designated targets. It not only struck the heartland of terror by striking the designated targets, but it also exhibited the Pakistan Armed Forces in poor light failing to detect such strike deep into their territory, rendering all their air defense systems surprised. It also called off their nuclear bluff, as Pakistan has been holding back India from military action into their territory by blackmailing that if India crosses the LoC/IB it will respond with nuclear weapon. This strike proved that India reserves the right of self defence and will strike terrorists wherever they are,even if amounts to getting into Pakistan territory, and would keep all options on the table, in case Pakistan decides to climb the escalatory ladder in our response.

As expected, to salvage its pride Pakistan Air Force using three F-16 aircraft entered Indian air space with an intend to take on a military target were deterred by alert IAF combat patrol and they had to cross back to their territory causing no damage in India. The dogfight between the F-16 and our MIG-21 on duty resulted in both being crashed resulting an unfortunate ejection of Wing Commander Abhinandan drifting to the Pakistani side of LoC. The Indian pilot got hero’s welcome on coming back to India, whereas Pakistan refused to acknowledge the loss of F-16 aircraft and Wing Commander Shashuddin, and preferred to hide the loss because the use of F-16 aircraft amounted to violation of their ‘End User Agreement’ with US. The recent flip flop by Pakistani establishment indicates its panic reactions, after Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) claimed the responsibility of Pulwama suicide attack, but the Pakistani establishment denied it. The DG ISPR denied the existence of JeM and its leader Maulana MasoodAzhar on its soil. Later Pakistan Foreign Minister accepted that he was in Pakistan and unwell. Subsequently Pakistan arrested 44 JeM terrorists including MaulanaMasood Azhar’s son and brother under tremendous international pressure including Indian diplomatic offensive.  

Analysis of Options for India post Air Strikes

In our national interest to prevent the proxy war by Pakistan, India has to use every element of CNP. It means India has to exercise multipronged approach includes – diplomatic, political, economic, military, information & technological offensive against Pakistan. As the main player, the Pakistani Army will not like to compromise on promoting proxy war, because their influence and relevance in their country is due to their role of being the sole protector from “Indian threat” and keeping Kashmir issue alive. To deal with rogue state India will have to consider some “Out of the box options”.

Diplomatic Offensive: The global community is well aware of Pakistan being the epicenter of terrorism, as it continues to harbor, train, support and utilize terrorists in its surroundings to include India, Afghanistan and Iran, as its strategic assets. After Osama Bin Laden being found in Pakistan the deniability tool of Pakistan has taken a beating. We have to keep the diplomatic offensive on, so that the global community is convinced of our actions. The world opinion seems to be against Pakistan, with a fresh proposal to declare Maulana Mazood Azhar a global terrorist and we need to push it through. In my opinion the step is just symbolic, because nothing much changed in respect of treatment to Hafiz Saeed by Pakistan after his inclusion into the list.  While India may like to globally isolate Pakistan but it is not practically possible because some of the countries have a strategic interest in its geographical location and will continue to have relations with them. The US National Security Advisor (NSA) advocated India has the right of self defense and the similar sentiment expressed by other states (except China) did convince the international community for our offensive-defense to prevent proxy war. The diplomaticoffensive needs to continue for a long term effect because the global climate is prone to frequent changes. US needs Pakistan to keep their interest alive in Afghanistan. Pakistan is priceless for China in terms of financial investments in CPEC, preventing nurturing of ETIM, protecting its 50,000 workers and to contain India. We therefore need a smart diplomacy with China.

Economic Offensive: Scrapping unilateral ‘Most Favored Nation’ status and imposing 200 percent tariffs is a symbolic gesture due to extremely low trade volume and that too skewed in our favor. We need to build a strong case with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to declare them ‘Black instead of Grey’ in next meeting, which will affect its formal economy. We should also create a world opinion to convince International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial institutes to prevent further loans to Pakistan, so that they are not diverted towards terrorism. It however needs to be noted that the terror industry of Pakistan functions on parallel economy fuelled by narcotic trade, Pakistan Military and ISI funding, hawala funds from some countries propagating Sunni wahabism and extortion. It is therefore imperative that we close the tap in Kashmir by conviction of separatists doing money laundering to the pangs of terror industry within Kashmir.  Water flowing uninterrupted to Pakistan is the main source for their cultivation drinking water and power generation, more so in Punjab, which is home to maximum ruling elite of Pakistan. We should start by utilizing full quota of water authorized to India as per Indus water treaty, and also suspend the treaty to re-negotiate further, till Pakistan shuns proxy war against India.

Political Offensive: India should move a step ahead from pure sympathy and moral support towards the barbaric treatment of Balochi population by Pakistani military India could consider providing facility for asylum to their leaders in India and later may step up  to allow them to form the ‘government in exile’ in India. India should start asserting its legal right over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and GillgitBaltisanby filling the vacant seats of Lok Sabha and Kashmir Assembly reserved for PoK and Kashmiri Pundits.Since India has more than 36000 families of PoK and six lakhs Kashmiri pundits India should give them the opportunity of contesting these seats and become the voice of entire POK and Gillgit-Baltisan.

Military Options: India has called off the Pakistani bluff about the use of nuclear weapons, and has all the options on the table to respond militarily to Pakistan proxy warbecause Pakistan has given a failed military response to air strikes on terror camps. The space for the conventional war exists between proxy and nuclear war. Pakistan is unlikely to adopt nuclear option it has the chances of getting obliterated by the Indian second strike capability which has the nuclear triad. Large numbers of military options are available and our defense forces can respond at the time, place and methodology of own choosing. At the same time India should continue taking appropriate measures to bring all the separatists and facilitators of Pakistan proxy inside India to books.

Misinformation Campaign Post Air Strikes

In the age of Information Warfare, there is also an element of misinformation campaign by some politicians and some segments of media within and outside India, which is trying to put India in a disadvantageous position. In some cases the persons raising controversies do not understand how a smart bomb kit like SPICE-2000 works and look for proof in low resolution overhead pictures put up by foreign news agencies or in terms of casualties which can be counted only by Pakistanis. It is sufficient to understand that if the damage was not so intense, Pakistan would not have taken the risk of violating Indian air space by F-16, fully knowing the consequences of such actions. We need to leave the decision of releasing the post strike damage assessment reports/proofs/signatures to the officials/Government responsible for it. As we get nearer the elections some issues pertaining to defence forces have also become a subject of political campaigning. While it is not appreciated by Defence Forces, but it is unlikely to stop as political parties will like to score a brownie point on every possible event that occurs. As a professional veteran I can confidently say that our Defence Forces are highly professional and trained; hence are unlikely to change their focus from their main task. I will however appreciate if political parties leave DefenceForces out of politics and synergize for the national security interest, so that the adversaries do not get an upper edge in Information warfare and perception management.    

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen SB Asthana

Chief Instructor, United Service Institute of India.

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