On November 25, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told a rally in Panaji, Goa, “There is no doubt that the army is gallant, but for the first time, the country’s political leadership took a strong policy decision. And after that too, we have given an appropriate response to other cowardly attacks. It was such a powerful response that some days back, finally they called us that please stop this we are pleading with you”, adding, “We said that we have no problem stopping it, but you stop it too. As a result, there is no firing on the border.” Earlier, post India’s the surgical strikes into POK against terrorist launch pads, Parrikar had also said, “We taught the Army their capabilities”. There have been cross border offensive actions earlier too but never have such statements been given, not even after decimating East Pakistan.
Sure the Pakistani DGMO asked for ‘unscheduled’ contact with his Indian counterpart after India inflicted heavy casualties from Pakistan through fire assaults in retaliation to the heinous act of beheading one of our soldiers. The very purpose of the DGMO hotline is that either incumbent can call the other, when deemed necessary in addition to exchange on fixed days, and this has happened on earlier occasion too, from our side also. The request is sent in advance because all such telephonic conversations are recorded; scheduled or unscheduled. Many a times, because of inadvertent border crossings, DGMO of the affected side informs his counterpart on the hotline, asking for the individual to be returned.
In the instant case, the conversation could have been to reduce artillery and mortar exchanges, necessitated because of adverse public opinion because of Pakistani casualties, Imran Khan even calling for severing trade ties with India. However, this is quite different from ‘pleading’. Had there been any pleading, the Pakistani military would have axed their DGMO there and then because the telephonic conversation is recorded at the Pakistani end too. Additionally, our MoD may have favoured making the taped conversation of the DGMOs public, given the manner of chest pounding and self-aggrandizement we are indulging in. Besides, if Pakistan had really been brought down to the level of pleading then she would have stopped further infiltration, terror attacks, and desisted from more cross-border firing, which certainly is not the case.
But let us look at the casualties in the recent past say after the killing of Burhan Wani. We have suffered over 40 soldiers casualties, including officer casualties – like the one Lt Col and one Major martyred in the twin terrorist attacks on November 29. It is difficult to accurately gauge how many casualties Pakistan has suffered during the same period. However, even though Pakistani military personnel would have been killed and wounded by our actions, bulk of the terrorists killed are the gutter level riff-raff who are radicalized and flush on narcotics, even though Pakistan mixes regulars with terrorists. That is why it is a highly low cost option for Pakistan, while the Pakistani military officers strut around with chest full of medals without winning a war; even as they are nowhere close to their North Korean counterparts who are adorned with medals from their collar to their socks and perhaps few on the behind.
It is ironic that post the terror attack in proximity of the Corps HQ at Nagrota on November 29 some media are saying that Pakistan’s proxy war is now beginning. Pray what has been happening for the past 26 years? Views also are being aired that it will take Qamar Javed Bajwa, new Pakistani army chief, about a year to get hold of or rather tame the Pakistani military. Aren’t we having periodic relapse of utopia with respect to our reading of Pakistan? Bajwa is from the same school that will not permit the Pakistani military to lose control over the Pakistani polity, be it Nawaz Sharif or anyone else. Pakistan’s strategic depth in Afghanistan is already expanding with China’s support. Should Bajwa seek rapprochement with India, at least part of the Pakistani military can be asked to return to barracks. You don’t need to consult soothsayers to predict that Bajwa is unlikely to change course, especially with current Indian responses.
The answer to sub-conventional war lies in the sub-conventional, not conventional. Pakistan knows this and therefore is provoking us at every opportunity knowing we have progressed little beyond an inward looking policy at physical level. Fire assaults and short-distanced surgical strikes are no deterrent. Conventional war too is not a solution even as these would be short and intense (in backdrop of Nawaz Sharif and Bajwa wagging their nuclear tails), but wouldn’t resolve the problem of terrorism, but would regress economy of both countries by few years. We must also acknowledged that having fanned radicalism in J&K, Pakistan can continue sustained terror attacks in conjunction infiltrating terrorists even with reduced ceasefire violations. So we are in a situation where casualties on our side, mainly security forces, may continue to rise on daily basis while the Pakistani army is hardly damaged.
The ‘deep state’ in Pakistan is its army and unless the deep state is made to pay heavily, don’t expect Bajwa and Co to change their stance. There is little point in holding conferences after each terror attack, go for fire assaults or repeat surgical strikes when the solution to be progressed lies at strategic levels. Isn’t it ironic that Agha Muhammad Umer Farooq, veteran Lt Gen of Pakistan army says, “Chankya advocated as six-fold policy to interact with the neighbors that included co-existence, neutrality, alliance, double policy, march and war, and that, “If the end could be achieved by non-military method, even by methods of intrigue, duplicity and fraud, he would not advocate an armed conflict”. More significantly, Muhammad Umer Farooq writes, “India – Pakistan war of 1971 and resultant disintegration of our country is another classic example of sustained non kinetic applications, sub conventional war, with selected and controlled kinetic application by India while synchronizing the inner front volatility for main strategic effects”.
Pakistan’s proxy war on India follows the above pattern in methodology although her objective, or rather obsession, is limited to Kashmir. Besides, her army dare not walk in knowing the very limited area of influence she has managed to create in J&K – that too restricted to the Valley. But the fact remains that we are on the receiving end and are suffering avoidable casualties because we are largely responding conventionally. We need to put in place sub-conventional response at the strategic level, integrating multiple non-kinetic measures. This has to be planned at the national level. Fortunately for us Afghanistan, which is at the receiving end of a much more intense proxy war waged by Pakistan, would be a more than willing partner.