Homeland Security

Pulwama Car Bombing – another Surgical Strike or Chemotherapy?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 17 Feb , 2019

The car bombing of a CRPF convoy on February 14, 2019, 30 km short of Srinagar in Pulwama has claimed the lives of 44 CRPF personnel with more than 30 others injured. J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik has called it an intelligence failure possibly because an intelligence advisory telex marked ‘extremely urgent’ of February 8, had warned all concerned including DIGs CRPF of North and South Kashmir that read “Before occupying your place of deployment, please sanitize the area properly as there are inputs of use of IEDs. Matter most urgent”.  T

here suicide bomber had local support, which should have been considered after local connivance in other terrorist attacks, particularly by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), like at Uri army base in 2016 and Sunjwan army camp during 2018. How has 350 kg explosives been moved around and transported – where was our intelligence?

The first reports of the car bomb attack said the explosive-lade vehicle was parked on side of the road but later ones talked of the suicide bomber “ramming” his Bolero into the convoy. The fact that terrorists were able to fire upon the convoy after the blast raises questions about sanitization of the area and effectiveness of the road opening parties, given that much more caution was required when such a long convoy of 72 vehicles was ferrying over 2500 CRPF personnel. JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack and posted a video of the suicide bomber, a school dropout.  

Whether we agree or not, government’s Kashmir Policy has been a complete mess – knee-jerk actions, akin to Parkinson’s. To begin with, government gave the Hurriyat separatists free hand to visit and interact with officials in the Pakistani High Commission at New Delhi. In fact junior ministers were detailed to attend some functions.

Separatists were also permitted to freely visit Pakistan and interact with Pakistani military, ISI, politicians and terrorists. This included a terrorist like Yasin Malik who boasted to Tim Sebastian on BBC that he had killed four IAF personnel. He is a free bird even now, perhaps under cover of being approver. Or is he paying ISI money to the intelligence agencies for his freedom; but what message are you giving to security forces? Forget separatism, China kills anyone criticizing the government and harvests his / her organs. Pakistan simply shoots Baloch separatists; they are all abroad.   

The BJP coalition government with the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in J&K deteriorated the situation further. Governor’s rule should have been imposed if PDP didn’t have the numbers rather than the unholy alliance with a party that came up with support of the Hijbul Mujahideen.

The other major political party, National Conference (NC) too is linked to terrorist organizations and was clearly complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits but no action was taken against them. Intelligence agencies gave proof of Hurriyat separatist being financed by the ISI, which only led to some half-hearted arrests and proceedings against them. Mehbooba Mufti kept releasing stone-pelters under amnesty for small offences; their release timed just before terrorist attacks.

The state government failed to capitalize on the level of violence brought down by the Army periodically. On the contrary, ceasefire was granted during Ramzan to let the terrorists regroup and consolidate. According to the IB, Rohigyas colonized n Jammu despite Article 370 assisted JeM terrorists in the attack on Sunjwan army camp in January 2018 but none have been arrested and prosecuted.

Post the Pulwama car bombing, the question on social media and even headers on some national TV channels are asking whether we will go beyond rhetoric of ‘Kadi Ninda’ (condemnation), ‘Ghor Ninda’ (deep condemnation) and ‘Thos Kadam’ (concrete steps)? 

Calling Pakistan ‘Kayar’ (Coward) is nothing beyond pulling out own hair in frustration because in sub-conventional warfare the question of morality doesn’t arise in the first place. The Pakistani High Commissioner to India has been handed over a demarche, who probably returning to the High Commissioned popped the bubbly. The world condemning the terror attack is routine and not to be exuberant about.

In fact, Imran Khan and his army chief must be quite amused with Donald Trump asking Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism. World including US also condemned the recent car bombing in Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran. Significantly both the car bombings in Iran and India coincided with visit of the Saudi Prince to Pakistan – is that a signal? FM Arun Jaitly saying the international community to isolate Pakistan is equally amusing considering China, Saudi Arabia and even the US seek strategic support from Pakistan; US for safe exit from Afghanistan.

Did it require this car-bombing to withdraw the MFN status from Pakistan? At a pre-election rally in Jhansi on February 15, 2019, Prime Minister Modi announced he has given a free hand to the Army to extract revenge at a place and time of their choosing. This is sweet music to public ears but would probably translate into artillery attacks in addition to a shallow raid like the one conducted in POK in September 2016, as response to the JeM attack at Uri army base that killed 19 soldiers and wounded over two scores.

In the unnamed operation termed ‘surgical strikes’ perhaps 2-4 regular army soldiers and some 30 plus terrorists were killed which may or may not be from JeM. But over politicization of this raid and aggrandizing the Prime Minister and the NSA through video clips and the Bollywood movie ‘Uri’ has made repeat of similar raids all the more difficult.

Next time, our Special Forces will likely encounter increased surveillance of likely ingress routes, as also IEDs and claymore mines with hidden trip wires. Incidentally, does the “free hand” to the Army include dealing with the enemy agents within the Kashmir Valley and rest of India – politicians, separatists, stone-pelting organizers, and the cross-section in India on ISI payroll?

The “free hand” that the Prime Minister just sanctioned is ‘no’ deterrence to Pakistan’s proxy war. Sub-conventional is part of hybrid warfare which needs a national level response on long-term continuous basis. This is the job of the national political hierarchy.

The NSA, in particular, should be working double time since as Joint Director IB in 2008 he was the chief negotiator for Masood Azhar and accompanied him to Kandhar; where Azhar was set free to transform into the Frankenstein of today. Does the blood drawn by Azhar not impinge on the conscience of the NSA? US exit from Afghanistan will make the situation worse for us. As it is, we should be ready for more car bombings, gas and drone attacks, use of radiological devices and the like.

Terrorist are developing new types of explosives experimenting with commercially available products like fertilizer and chemicals, coupling them with radioactive like material to increase destructive power. Terrorist organizations, particularly the ISIS, are developing CBRN capabilities, assisted by fissile material available in the black market. Toxic radioactive agents can be paired with conventional explosives and turned into a radiological weapon.

Revenge attacks are no recipe for coping with sub-conventional warfare. The time for pussyfooting with J&K and Pakistan has gone. We need to take control even if lives don’t matter in India, and this terror attack would be forgotten after the elections, till more rhetorical drama and sloganeering is enacted after the next terror attack.

Pakistani army has never won a war and would not like conventional war with India. We need to get hold of Pakistan’s multiple fault-lines, forcing it to seek war; quit harping on the need for a strong Pakistan, it is time to balkanize Pakistan once again.

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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

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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15 thoughts on “Pulwama Car Bombing – another Surgical Strike or Chemotherapy?

  1. Where is India’s Offensive defense strategy advocated by Shri Ajit Doval?
    What we have is defensive reactive offensive strategy?
    What we have more border fencing, more electronic fencing.
    Had we spent fraction of defensive measure funding to offensive resources
    we would have more results.
    We seen how China populated Chinese in Tibet and Xinxiang
    We have seen how Sinhalese are relocated in Tamil areas in Srilanka
    We have seen how chakmas are driven out in CHT and resettled muslims in Bangladesh?

    What is that India did not learn from these?
    We could have retired army personal settled in the border vulnerable of LAC .
    There should be clusters of self sustained families with arms who will act as first line of defense from insurgents, illicit trafficking and subversives.
    As you keep on filing out the gaps , they will form impregnable barriers to terrorists.
    These settlers will be provided with latest equivalence and self defending arms.

    • What you’re suggesting is the only plausible action items for the Indian government- both strategically and tactically.
      The time for pussyfooting is gone. If clarity fails to dawn upon the leadership then things would only go worse.

  2. India may have covert assets. Why we need to activate these assets in times of crisis. We have to have autonomous covert assets in Pakistan that will be triggered by terror attack in India. They don’t wait for orders or what operation to be carried out. They themselves decide the targets. Then only Pakistan will behave.

  3. Dear Prakash Sir,
    I am not military man , but it boils seeing our soldiers getting killed.
    I am feeling there is lack of reorientation of military tactics from Indian army side.
    Please forgive me if they are observed to be naive.

    We know it is the stated policy of Pakistan to bleed India from 1971 on wards.
    We hear same old story Pak pushing militants through border firing, TV channels discussing, Indian PMs making peace bids.

    What is extraordinarily naive about Indian Army is
    Are there in change of tactics from Indian Army since 47 years? This the writer has to respond
    Why the Indian since 1971 has evolved it’s tactics to punish Pakistan

    My questions are
    1)Pakistan uses jihadi cannon fodder to attack Indian army which are precious.
    For Pakistan terrorists are cannon fodder which they will brain wash and compensate their families.
    2)How is that it did not occur that Indian Army has to hit Pakistani precious resources not jihadi launch pads in POK. That is for every attack either civilian death or paramilitary forces kill Pakistani soldiers not terrorists , especially Pakistani Punjabi soldiers.
    3)How is that Indian Army has not reorganized or created highly mobile, lethal brigades to launch instant attack on Pakistani posts and kill Pakistani soldiers by the time media airs terror attack.

    4)How is that Indian Army not factored this kind of strategy and planned for suitable
    military acquisitions?
    5)Indian politicians and IAS officers are not suitable for planning this kind of strategy. it is the Army to recommend.
    6)When Indian Army launches swift attack and kills Pakistani Soldiers, Pakistan can’t react as international outcry will be there to preach Pakistan to control jihadi elements.
    Even all weather friend China can’t preach Pakistan to go to war.

  4. China is the biggest enemy of India and the world.
    There is Chinese adage
    Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them.
    Replace man with China and you will have below proverb.
    China is only country , that can remain on friendly terms with the victims(Taiwan, India, Japan,Vietnam, Philippines and Russia) until China gobbles them.
    Here Taiwan , China wants to gobble. India , China wants to gobble Arunachal Pradesh and break India’s North East. What China is doing is coerce India to be friendly through border intimidation (ex:Dokalam) , up the ante through Pakistan sponsored terrorism.
    What was India’s reaction? Wuhan Summit? Is Modi strong leader?
    Russia, China will be friendly till it gobbles Siberia.
    Similarly other countries also.

    Similarly for technology and resources
    China is only country , that can remain on friendly terms with the victims(US, Russia, Europe) until China gobbles them.
    Here China,remains friendly till it gobbles US tech. China will stoop to any level to sign the trade agreement to remain friendly, aggressively promote Made in China 2025. What is US reaction? Trump 2020 election decides the trade deal.
    China, remains friendly with Russia till it gets Russian military and space tech and then gobbles central Asian former Russian republics and turn them into vassals like Pakistan.Similarly for EU also till it gobbles it’s markets.

    Does India has solution? Yes dual messaging
    1)Attack Pakistani targets using local groups, Invite Australia to Malabar naval exercise.
    2) Coerce India , react with Attack Pakistani CPEC targets , announce quad alliance
    3) Coerce India, react with supporting Balochis, POK etc.., announce invitation to Vietnam, Indonesia etc
    Still incorrigible , react with announcement of Asian NATO.
    China responded for Trump’s tariff war. China will not change behavior with Wuhan’s and Putin meditations.

  5. General,

    Did you author that column in Asia Times: https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/02/opinion/india-needs-sub-conventional-capabilities/” where it is noted “The car bomb attack in Indian-administered Kashmir…” ? Is that erstwhile State of Maharaja’s Kashmir (Srinagar…) where the Indian Army stands just “Indian administered” as per the Pakistani parlance, and does not come under Indian sovereignty?
    If you are the author could you please acknowledge it, and explain why you you are designating Indian sovereign territory Kashmir with that metamorphosed epithet which would imply that the Indian Army is illegally in Kashmir? Thank you.

    • Indian Army is not soft. Indian politicians are cowards here they fight themselves and drag armed forces for political ends.
      We know it is the stated policy of Pakistan to bleed India from 1971 on wards.
      We hear same old story Pak pushing militants through border firing, TV channels discussing, Indian PMs making peace bids.
      What is extraordinarily naive about Indian Army is
      Are there in change of tactics from Indian Army since 47 years? This the writer has to respond
      Why the Indian since 1971 has evolved it’s tactics to punish Pakistan
      My questions to the writer are
      1)Pakistan uses jihadi cannon fodder to attack Indian army which are precious.
      For Pakistan terrorists are cannon fodder which they will brain wash and compensate their families.
      2)How is that it did not occur that Indian Army has to hit Pakistani precious resources not jihadi launch pads in POK. That is for every attack either civilian death or paramilitary forces kill Pakistani soldiers not terrorists , especially Pakistani Punjabi soldiers.
      3)How is that Indian Army has not reorganized or created highly mobile, lethal brigades to launch instant attack on Pakistani posts and kill Pakistani soldiers by the time media airs terror attack.
      4)How is that Indian Army not factored this kind of strategy and planned for suitable
      military acquisitions?
      5)Indian politicians and IAS officers are not suitable for planning this kind of strategy. it is the Army to recommend.
      6)When Indian Army launches swift attack and kills Pakistani Soldiers, Pakistan can’t react as international outcry will be there to preach Pakistan to control jihadi elements.
      Even all weather friend China can’t preach Pakistan to go to war.

  6. All this is valid obviously. However we should have had pre-selected targets to hit back quickly. Surprise is a weapon or war but a more effective weapon of war is to strike the enemy when the sympathy of the world is with us, the political parties are forced to keep quiet, the traitors within our own country who hide behind our democratic freedom, are quiet and we have the attention and full support of the people. This is the opportunity we manage to squander every time. At this time we need to sink one of their navy ships, hit one of their air bases hard and several of their army camps. Then wait to see how far they want to go with retaliation if any. Make the SOB’s decide if they want a full scale war or stop terrorism. We can do all this with missiles without crossing the border and endangering any more of the soldiers. This is the type of courage which is sadly lacking in our military and civilian leaders both. They will come up with a million excuses why Pakistan should not be hit hard. They will wait for months and then lob a few artillery shells at them and claim they did something. This type of gutless policy is responsible for where we are today. If Pakistan can attack a much larger country with impunity, then why do we wet our pants at the thought of hitting them back? Time to change our approach beyond empty words, empty threats, lofty speeches and useless TV talk shows with arm chair experts, else we are doomed to be hit again and again by Pakistan while China enjoys the show and our soldiers pay the price.

  7. Sir,
    Only way the Pakis will regret is to firm up a long term policy that Balkanises them into four namely Balochistan, Sind, Pakhtoonistan and Punjab. We will at least have three that cud be our assets.
    also time that Article 370 and 35A is done away with. Hurriyats specially Geelani and Mirwaiz and others should find a place in Tihar Jail.
    regards

  8. First of all, the modern Mauryan empire never had a military with competent soldiers and officers, everything is inherited from colonial Britain, which used one tribe against another to control the masses. Mauryan rulers may boast that they had been winning wars against the other portion of the British-raised military, but this has always out of sheer numerical superiority. When confronted with force with big number and highly motivated force from China, the illiterate and unintelligent jawans fled and ceded territory. It is quite clear those enlisted in the group that was attacked did not have the adequate IQ(sure less than 85) to meet the challenge. All they went for was secure salary and other benefits like free drink and so on. They might have been taking chances, like they were doing decades ago, based on traveling in large convoys, which can not be attacked by a few guerrillas, but the latter evolve, evolve to suit the time and space. As long as there’s oppression and denial of peoples’ right to self determination, there’s going to be defeats of this kinds to the oppressors, for the Mauryan empire is in deed an open-air enslavement of hundreds of smaller unprivileged Nations. The only thing that is keeping the wheels going is the same tactics like the British did using one against the other, this time using Quislings from the same Nations to contain the masses. Leaders are cheap and easy to be bought!

  9. good article ,
    sir you indeed pointed out the real problem and anticipated action or inaction. After the defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq many terrorists are returning to home countries or to other zones in order to continue their jihad. Kashmir ,India is one of them, Kashmir is entering into next generation jihad, it will see more and more suicide, IED and VBIED attacks.

    You have suggested balkanising Pakistan, and I agree it has to be ultimate solution,, but how? China is supporting Pakistan and wont let JeM leadership blacklisted. Visit of Saudi prince has raised the moral of Pakistan, Saudi need Pakistan against Iran, US need it for safe exit. Russia seems to stay neutral.
    Time has come India should stop looking for international committees approval and take unilateral actions by herself.

    India is left with very limited choices. that would be Covert operations and increasing Intelligence capacity. and how ?well thats India has to figure out.
    and I am sure she will. Desperate Times desparate solutions.

  10. “Pakistani army has never won a war and would not like conventional war with India. We need to get hold of Pakistan’s multiple fault-lines, forcing it to seek war; quit harping on the need for a strong Pakistan, it is time to balkanize Pakistan once again”
    I AGREE WITH THE ABOVE CONCLUSION.Across the Indian polity it Must be agreed, that a Strong Pakistan is not in India’s national interest and the Indian state Must Ensure that, Pakistan must cease to exist as a nation and it must be dismembered at the Earliest

  11. Relevant to this happening , a reference is invited to this Vedic astrology writer’s alert for more care and appropriate strategy through article – “ The Year 2019 Astrologically for India” – published as early as last year on 7 October , 2018 at theindiapost.com. The alert in the article reads like this in the article :-
    “ February – March 2019. These nearly two months appear to be calling for more care and appropriate strategy in relation to more than one front……………It may be alright to be alert while dealing with or storing or handling fire , gas , chemicals , venom , explosives , hydropower or energy sources. Similar alertness may be exercised while driving on road……Some major accident on road or landslide cannot be ruled out. Human malice may be at its height in operation. …………………States in the northern India like …..J&K…….could take cues for more care and appropriate strategy in the aforesaid areas of life”. Later and separately in November 2018 , while repeating the alert on countless times at number of places through comments , through social media , through communications to newspapers by email , the prediction was made more precise and closer by adding that such more care and appropriate strategy may be called for during February -March 2019 on 14 February , 22 February and 3 March or around a day prior or after. So the alert was complete and beyond doubt for reading between the lines. The latest emails communicating aforesaid with dates to some newspapers were sent on 6 February 2019 and 13 -14 February 2019. https://www.theindiapost.com/headline/the-year-2019-astrologically-for-india/

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