In recent times, India is becoming increasingly a nation immune or ad infinitum in mourning due to terror strikes, railway mishaps, fire disasters, spurious liquor deaths, natural disasters etc.
2,550 CRPF soldiers – more than 3 battalions strong – in 78 Vehicles convoy and 46 dead in a car bomb explosion all beckoning to happen sums up the incident. Let me highlight that it was an all round failure at operational and intelligence domains.
Is India a nation in mourning in perpetuity? After every terror strike, big or small, the usual story highlights reads: “Brave Hearts Martyred”, “Strongly Condemn Outrageous attack”, “Despicable and cowardice attack”, “Wreath laying, Salute and Homage”, “Farewell and Tributes Paid to Hero’s”, “Mantri’s and Chief’s rushing to terror scenes”, “Cabinet Committee on Security Meet at the PM’s residence”; “NIA Team Rushed to Investigate terror strike”, “Befitting Response at the time and place of own choosing; “Blame Pakistan to Isolate in the International Community” and so on.
On usual lines, “Blindmen of Hindustan” shedding crocodile tears and laying wreaths over the “coffins of braves” draped in the “National Flag” accompanied by “ceremonial farewell” with all the mighty and sundry has become a common sight. Also, the latest trend of “Candle Light” rallies ‘lip service’ by civil society demonstrating solidarity with bereaved families. All showmanship for gallery!
Media hype or hysteria is on usual lines stoking war hysteria and frenzy what with words like “Dastardly” and “Cowardly” describing the shock and dismay over the incident.
For photo opportunities, Ministers and political leaders receive coffins, lay wreaths and visit bereaved families. Has anyone ever heard of a son of political leader sacrificing his life in the service of the nation or serving in the armed forces during wars in recent times? So also, the children of bureaucrats!
Even the Chiefs of Armed Forces and Army Commanders and Director Generals also make their presence on such ceremonies, which is surely the duty of their “Welfare and Personnel Directorates”; instead of addressing the real operational issues.
Such a script and story go on endlessly; mostly cosmetic and ceremonial. Sooner than later, media cacophony dies down and the scene shifts to yet another new item making sensational headlines.
Pulwama terror strike is yet another event that would soon be consigned to the dustbin of history. Slain soldiers hailed as “Martyrs” now will be forgotten soon and given ‘Memorial” status at best to be remembered by posterity.
On the political front, particularly diplomatic arena, claims include: incontrovertible evidence of Pakistan’s direct hand in the terror strike; Pakistan’s retort on expected lines “strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government; and the usual diplomatic bluster of ensuring “Pakistan’s complete isolation in international arena; condemnation pouring from USA, Russia, France and neighbors to include Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and other Western nations etc.
And, revoking “Most Favored Nation Status”, albeit overdue since long, is a welcome initiative. It must be followed by closure of all transit facilities to include: cross-border LOC trade routes in J & K; and other transit facilities at Wagah in Punjab and Munabo in Rajasthan.
Since quite a few among the dead soldiers to Punjab, even the Kartarpur transit facilities recently concluded needs to be reviewed.
Pakistan is hell bent upon taking revenge for its 1971 military defeat in today’s Bangladesh. Who does not know that Pakistan is the epi-center or breeding ground or factory of terrorism since late 1970s internationally?
“Diplomatic Offensive” is the oft invoked cry of key political leaders to fool the people. “Isolate” Pakistan as its end objective. So what? Does it make any difference on the ground?
However, whoever is talking about diplomatic isolation of Pakistan is living in a ‘fool’s paradise”. China is going to remain a staunch strategic ally of Pakistan in the current international and regional geo-political context and content.
The USA is also caught in a dilemma. It just cannot abandon its erstwhile “Frontline Strategic Partner’ of the Cold War era against the U.S.S.R, and in the fight against al Qaeda. Pakistan is “breeding the snakes in its backyard” was invoked by Hillary Clinton, when she was Secretary of State. The USA is caught in a difficult position to make a choice what with its obligations or commitments in Afghanistan. Its posture ‘running with hare and hunting with the hounds’ cannot last forever.
Yet, the USA will not ensure Pakistan to be declared by the U.N. as “State Sponsor of Global Terrorism”. For, it has its strategic compulsions in Afghanistan with over 8000 troops committed to ensure the security of the present Afghan government. Finally, the USA also just cannot but help maintain an ambivalent or muted posture due to its “Afghan Compulsions and Constraints”.
Saudi Arabia is Pakistan’s frontline strategic alliance partner. The ‘Crown Prince” is visiting Pakistan in the near future. A host of financial and economic assistance are on the cards to bail out Pakistan. Also, it is well known that Saudi Arabia financially supported the raise of “Islamic Radicalism” by funding a large number of Madrasas in the name of education for the Afghan refugees. And, the Madrasas became the hotbeds churning out terrorist’s dime by the dozens.
Similarly, majority of the OIC countries would never condemn Pakistan for its terror activities except for Afghanistan, Bangladesh and a few others may remain neutral.
Next, the usual political grandstanding of “unity of all political parties” with the bluster of Modi “given full freedom” to choose a time and place for the future course of action”. Wait and watch, the usual politics will flare up sooner than later on the domestic front. Already, Mamata Banerjee has fired the first salve “blaming intelligence failure” as if she is a master counter terror strategist.
Public opinion favors strong action against Pakistan. If Modi and the BJP leadership do not demonstrate political will to strike back and inflict casualties, it will cost them dearly in the forthcoming elections in Punjab, Goa and Gujarat.
The domestic political costs far outweigh military or diplomatic costs for Modi and the BJP. So, they better act now; or perish at the ballot box later.
No useful purpose will be served in mere political rhetoric and saber rattling in the media. For, it would only confirm that India is a nation in perpetual mourning due to its political timidity and cowardice.
Be that as it may, let me highlight response options available: go to war; pro-active offensive strategic strikes; spontaneous or immediate retaliatory strikes on known terror camps in PoK by air and missile strikes; deliberate UAV armed strikes against JEM leader Hafiz Saeed and other top leaders; surgical strikes by special force; and, other counter actions.
Let me highlight that ‘surgical strikes’ by special force is a ‘very high-risk’ operation and should be the last choice. Any reverse can have disastrous political fallout.
War as an option must be ruled out considering that both nations are “Nuclear Weapon States”. It is a “Do or Die” option that should be the last resort. Any escalation to war state is a low-probability, high-risk event. But if it did occur, it would have significant regional impacts.
Anyway, Indian Armed Forces are woefully unprepared to wage a full-fledged war due to 30-year old “Budget Freeze” and also post-Bofors scam fallout which forced the ‘Bureaucracy” into obstructionist posture stalling combat systems acquisitions and also the “arms middlemen” roles during the 10-year UPA rule.
Let me recount the statement made by former Vice Chief O Army Staff, Lt Gen Sarath Chand, to Kharge of the Congress Party heading the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Defense last year, “68% of our equipment is in the vintage category; just about 24% in the current; and 8% in the State-of-the-art category”.
Similarly, the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter squadrons (multi-role fighters and Ground Attack) as against authorized 42 squadrons is down to 31 combat squadrons as on date to include: 11 x Su-30MKI; 3 x MiG-29; 3 x Mirage 2000 (undergoing upgrade), 6 x the Jaguar – ground attack (initial stage of upgrade); 2 x two upgraded MiG-27; and 6 x MiG-21Bison (sitting ducks or Flying Coffins in any future war). And, the submarine fleet available is seriously limited.
India's military under preparedness and limited capabilities tempers any war escalation. India does not enjoy significant military advantage, particularly enjoy overwhelming air superiority that it could use to destroy Pakistan forces and severely damage their key infrastructure.
So, what can India demonstrate effectively is its ability to offensive proactive retaliation against terror camps by air and missile strikes, besides artillery and sniper duals across LoC showing Pakistan that actively sponsoring terror strikes would only invite an even more forceful reply?
In post-Pulwama terror incident context, reactive retaliation by air and missile strikes against terror camps or cross-border artillery and sniper duels need not wait for choice of “time and place” for the armed forces to deliver effective lesson to Pakistan.
Why are the Armed Forces waiting for directions? After all, Modi has stated “given full freedom to choose a time and place for the future course of action”. They must rise to the occasion and deliver the right kind of effective response to not only Pakistan, but also to the separatist leaders and people of Kashmir valley particularly the stone pelters that “enough tolerance is enough” and now the “Iron Fist” will be taken out of the “velvet glove”.
Finally, to all those peaceniks, Pakistan will remain more terrorist nuisance than ever before – its Army swears by 1000-years Jihad to overcome its humiliating defeat in 1971 war.