The abrogation of article 370 by India has put Pakistani army, its ‘real’ ruler, at horns of a dilemma. Indications are that the world body like UN has refused to take up the issue. Pakistani Army’s vast budget and its stranglehold over the state is based on its image of invincibility and the only means to wrest Kashmir from India. ‘Do nothing’ is not an option as the radicalized rank and file and younger generation of officers are already restive as indicated by straws in the wind.
If past is any guide then the public anger against the inability of Pak army will soon spill into the streets. In 1971 one has seen the glimpses of these when rioting mobs vented their anger against the govt. of the day for 1971 defeat. Not doing anything will bring down the image of Pak army in the eyes of its citizen’s, a prospect not to the liking of the army.
With both the armies on alert on the line of control, a Kargil like adventure and seizing of territory is out of question. Neither is a conventional attack against India in the plains of Punjab a viable option. In this situation the best option for Pakistan is to launch commando raid/raids by its regular forces on vulnerable formation headquarters along the LOC. A quick raid with ingress by helicopters and infiltration by land presents the best option.
There are numerous formation headquarters in Rajouri-Poonch area that are barely 3-4 kms away from the LOC (Line of Control) and the whole operation could be over in one night. As all the attention is focused on the happenings in valley, there is a danger of level of complacency setting in the formations in Jammu division. In any case, due to its very nature, security at formation headquarters is comparatively lax vis-a-vis unit level say a battalion headquarter.
If Pakistan is able to pull-off a successful commando raid it will send a message to the valley Kashmiris that Pakistan is capable of coming to the help of valley. It is far from reality but it is not the ‘fact’ that matters but perception. This will also silence its critics inside the country and restore its ‘Gazi’ image.
Pakistani PM’s statement that world must take responsibility if war breaks out, is a thinly disguised warning that Pakistan is planning a military action in Kashmir.
India has the option for a retaliatory strike and has the capability to do so. But at this stage the world body like UN Security Council will come in and urge restrain on India. This will give Pakistan the opportunity to go to UN and urge intervention in order to stop situation from escalating into a full blown conflict with overtones of its going nuclear. In short it is a ‘win win’ strategy for Pakistan. This time round Pakistan will be careful in NOT claiming it to be strike by Kashmiri militants as the world has no appetite for actions by non-state actors. Since post Uri attack India openly launched cross LOC attacks and owned them up, Pakistan will claim that it is merely following the example set by us.
Circumstances thus constrain India from an offensive strategy as that will play into Pakistani hands. The only option for India is to understand the threat, identify the likely infiltration routes, methods (whether by air or land) and fortify the likely targets, namely vulnerable formation headquarters near LOC. If we are well prepared and are able to thwart the commando action, it will be a signal to the restive valley that Pakistan is incapable of coming to their help.
This attempt by Pakistan is unlikely to be ‘one off’ affair and it is likely to keep on trying. We have seen how it tried to wrest the Siachen glacier heights with repeated attacks. The oft repeated phrase, eternal vigilance is price of freedom was never truer than now.