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Sunday, 2 October 2016
Uri response, a game changer-WHAT WILL PAK DO NOW
Uri response, a game changer
Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (rtd), October 02, 2016
Uri response, a game changer
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated an unprecedented politico-military will in giving the go ahead for...
Avenging martyrs: After years of strategic restraint, India tells Pakistan enough is enough
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated an unprecedented politico-military will in giving the go ahead for surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The surgical strikes were undertaken by the army’s elite Parachute Regiment Special Forces, sending out a clear and categorical signal to Pakistan that it will now have to pay for the “low-cost high-effect” proxy war being waged against India for the last 26 years.
The terror strike on the army camp at Uri on September 18, just 6 km from the LoC, where 19 soldiers were martyred, was the proverbial last straw. The anger and anguish spread across the entire length and breadth of the country, especially so as it came after another high visibility attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in January. The Lakshman Rekha had been crossed and the public sentiment needed to be assuaged.
The NDA government had invested a considerable amount of political capital in improving relations with Pakistan. The meeting between the two prime ministers at Ufa on July 15, 2015, was followed by a terrorist strike at Gurdaspur on July 28. Again, Modi’s outreach to his counterpart by way of a stopover at Lahore on December 24 was paid back by a terror attack at the Pathankot Air Base. Diplomatic and economic offensive alone have not yielded results over the years and it has emboldened Pakistan to perpetuate more and more terror attacks not only in Kashmir, but across the country as well.
The military option finally exercised and flawlessly planned, coordinated and executed by the army has raised the bar. Pakistan can no longer perpetuate terror strikes in India with impunity, the costs have been raised as India for once has synergised all elements of national power by launching a well-calibrated offensive in all domains to include diplomatic, informational, economic, political and more importantly, military.
For the first time, the military has been permitted to launch punitive operations across the LoC. The military response is essential as it is visible and showcases a nation’s resolve to protect its interests. With the impending onset of winter, it was an imperative for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to infiltrate terrorists to exploit the prevailing situation in the Kashmir Valley and also to carry out terror strikes prior to and during the festival season.
The strikes at the terrorist launch pads is a master stroke by the army where in a single operation, they have executed both punitive operations avenging the martyrdom of our 19 soldiers and pre-emptive operations, in destroying the terrorists and their launch pads.
The army must be complimented on the choice of cross LoC targets which are the terrorist bases. For one, the choice of targets demonstrates India’s strategic restraint, while responding in the tactical domain. The Indian Director General of Military Operation’s call to his counterpart in the afternoon of September 29 saying that the operations have been closed, gave a clear signal to Pakistan of the objectives, thus minimising the chances of any escalation.
In addition, the targets, though in the tactical domain, were spread from Bhimber to Kel on either side of the Pir Panjal – a few hundred kilometres apart – demonstrated our capability and capacities to hit when and wherever required.
The key question is, what are the options before Pakistan. The chances of Pakistan stepping up the escalation ladder is very low. Pakistan army chief Gen Raheel Sharif is expected to retire on November 28, but it is also rumoured that he is likely to be promoted as the field marshal.
Will he do something to redeem his image? It is doubtful, as he is well aware of the consequences of a war with India. It is a historical fact that Pakistan stands defeated in all previous wars. There are reports that the Pakistan armed forces have been on high alert since the Uri attack as a preparation to India’s likely military retaliation. Pakistan will continue to be on high alert.
However, any escalation in the conventional spectrum of war is unlikely. Pakistan is well aware of Indian military’s conventional superiority. In fact, it is certain that the Indian armed forces would have in its usual professional manner, war-gamed the options and prepared for all contingencies. The Indian Army knows well that operational preparedness and readiness is a sure way of preventing war. Also, Pakistan has limited options, and given the internal security situation, its involvement in Operation Zarb-e-Azb (a joint military offensive conducted by the Pakistan armed forces against various militant groups) and in Afghanistan, an economy that is in a state of near-collapse and which is badly in need of the $46 billion Chinese investment in the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Islamabad can ill afford a counterattack against a militarily superior India, with notional diplomatic support from China. Pakistan will continue to wage the proxy war with possible retaliation on the LoC and an increase in ceasefire violations. However, India’s intelligence agencies and the police should be prepared to counter high-visibility terror strikes in the metros and the hinterland. Pakistan may also target Indian assets and citizens in Afghanistan through the Taliban. The armed forces also need to review and beef up security of the vulnerable administrative installations and bases, especially those near the border areas as these will be the likely targets. India and the Indian Army have shown an unprecedented resolve and given a well-calibrated response, albeit in the tactical domain.
The surgical strikes have achieved the desired results, it is now imperative to ensure that the initiative is not lost and the isolation of Pakistan in the diplomatic and economic domain is taken to its logical conclusion, raising the costs of the proxy war
The most important piece of good news is that the Indian politico-military combine has finally crossed the Rubicon!
What next is a question many, especially the uninitiated, would ask.
Having seen and studied the mind of the Pakistani military up close for four years during my assignment at our embassy in Islamabad in the early 2000s, I am quite certain that there would be some retaliation from Pakistan. Now what form exactly it would take is debatable.
Some analysts feel we should expect Mumbai-like attacks to happen. I, for one, feel that any terror strike at this juncture is not on the cards. The reaction would most likely be military in nature and possibly using their special forces or attack helicopters.
India has to be prepared for this, especially with respect to the defence of our forward bases such as vulnerable border airfields. Airfields such as Naliya, Bhuj, Utarlai, Nal (Bikaner), Jaisalmer, Udhampur, Jammu and Pathankot come to mind.
Pathankot perhaps is less vulnerable now post the last strike as defences have perhaps been beefed up there.
But all the other forward airfields can be targeted by Pakistani special forces. Army protection needs to be called in at all these airfields and the IAF/army air defence network optimised in terms of radar cover and terminal defence weapons.
Indeed there was a book written a while ago by a Pakistani army officer which talked of a fictional commando raid on the Bhuj airfield.
Any nation that can seriously talk of a tactical nuclear response is absolutely nutty. Pakistan and North Korea are classic examples.So I say again we should be prepared for a military retaliation.
Some analysts say we need to take advantage of the window that has been opened in the counter-terror campaign and take out other targets like Muhamed Sayeed. This may be a bit premature at this stage and could invite out of proportion escalation.
We would need to continue with counter-terror surgical strikes in PoK, possibly gravitating to attack helicopter strikes or even fighter strikes on terror launch pads.
Special forces operations may not be possible in all scenarios and hence the other options advocated.
The biggest challenge for our decision makers and military planners to consider is the control of the escalation ladder.
We have to maintain the advantage in this respect having made the first move. We should -- especially the higher government and military functionaries -- be careful not to indulge in unnecessary jingoism and bravado on what we propose to do militarily.
We should think things through deliberately, do what we have to do and make sure the political signalling goes through to the adversary.
Another aspect that needs factoring is the expected panic in India's corporate world. One learns from sources that even during the mobilisation post the Parliament attack it was the business lobby that got Atal Bihari Vajpayee to back off.
One does see government functionaries reassuring the public at large and investors in particular -- this is important for the much touted 'government for all' approach.
The key aspect which needs consideration in controlling escalation is our targeting.
While choosing our targets at each stage we need to ensure that our operation are relevant, proportionately lethal and can achieve a high degree of success.
Our targeteers, especially for air power employment, need to do their homework carefully for target-weapon matching and collateral damage.
Having got the international community on our side so far, we should not sacrifice that by wanton targeting or uncalled for collateral damage.
I was reading a report in the Los Angeles Times asking what the point was of India having such a massive military wherewithal if it was not willing to employ it during such security challenges.
Well, we seem to be turning the corner here. The nation needs to stand stolidly behind the armed forces now.
You will then see them deliver and help our country achieve its political objectives. Especially when our potent 'airpower' starts its act in earnest