By M H AHSSAN ! INNLIVE
India must now step up, not ease up, its multi-pronged strategy against terrorism.
The hit-and-run terrorist attack in Baramulla on October 2 left one BSF jawan dead and another critically injured. Following India’s precision surgical strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on September 29, ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) have risen sharply.
India must now step up, not ease up, its multi-pronged strategy against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
Strategic restraint as an anti-terrorism doctrine has been given a quiet burial. Two issues stand out. First, further Pakistani retaliation: what form it will take and how to neutralise it. Second, India’s unfolding counter-terrorism strategy.
Renewed Pakistani retaliation could take two forms. One, attacking soft targets like malls, theatres, markets and other populated urban areas by activating sleeper cells and terrorists who had crossed over into India before the Uri terror attack.
Two, more hit-and-run attacks by Pakistani terrorists on Indian border posts and increased LoC shelling.
India must be prepared for both forms of retaliation by a Pakistani army humiliated by India’s precision surgical strike.
Meanwhile, the multi-pronged strategy to counter Pakistan-sponsored terrorism can be broken up into four broad areas:
India’s covert strike on September 20/21 (not officially acknowledged) reportedly killed around 20 terrorists. The surgical strike on September 29 killed an estimated 40 to 55 terrorists, though the actual figure could be higher.
More than the damage inflicted on Pakistan’s terror machine, India’s political will to strike and its military capability to do so have been clinically established.
Doubting Thomases in India abound. Some said the surgical strike was a routine affair. Others bemoaned the dangerous path India had embarked on. A few said economic growth would suffer.
The government should ignore these perennial naysayers. Vested interests in India are sometimes more beholden to Pakistan’s national interest than India’s. That is the nature of a subverted ecosystem. It will unravel in the fullness of time.
Implement the full ambit of the Indus Waters Treaty. India must optimise the water it is legally entitled to under the treaty. Pakistan can object only to abrogation of the treaty, not its full legal implementation.
As a result, Jammu and Kashmir will receive more water and generate an extra 15,000MW of hydroelectric power. All India needs to do to achieve this without violating the treaty is to build barrages and water storage facilities in J&K.
The Tulbul project (dubbed the Wullar barrage by Pakistan) is a good start. China’s move to block part of the Brahmaputra’s flow into Assam and Arunachal Pradesh should not deter India.
Pakistan will pay in two ways.
On one hand, it will receive progressively less water under the legally incontestable provisions of the Indus treaty. On the other, the principal beneficiary will be the people of J&K. The political capital this can deliver to the J&K government is incalculable.
Simultaneously, Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan in 1996 on the principle of reciprocity (a principle brazenly flouted by Islamabad and meekly accepted by Delhi for 20 years) must go.
Official trade between the two countries is low ($2 billion). Unofficial border trade is higher ($15 billion). All this misses the point. You cannot isolate a terror state by retaining its most favoured nation status. The messaging gets blurred, the outcome compromised.
Isolate Pakistan both internationally and regionally. Admonitory statements from the United States, Russia and other major powers directed at Pakistan after India’s surgical strike have made it clear that the world’s patience with Islamabad has run out. The winter session of Parliament will present an opportunity to pass a resolution to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the cancellation of the SAARC summit has isolated Pakistan regionally. Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bhutan have made common cause with India by pointing to Pakistan as the repository of terrorism.
The BIMSTEC forum is the obvious replacement for SAARC. It brings together a group of countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Dubbed the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
Five BIMSTEC members are also members of SAARC which comprises eight countries. If Afghanistan and the Maldives (both part of SAARC) are invited as observers in BIMSTEC, the grouping will give India an even wider geopolitical footprint across Asia. Pakistan, the eighth SAARC country, will be isolated.
Concomitantly, China’s move to block Maulana Masood Azhar as a UN-designated terrorist can be used to shame China internationally as a protector of global terror. It will not be easy for an aspiring global power like China to live that down.
Grant Baloch dissidents asylum in India and allow them to establish a government-in-exile. The "Free Balochistan" movement will keep Pakistan off balance.
Meanwhile, India must shift its strategic goalposts on J&K. The LoC is no longer sacrosanct. PoK is Indian territory, as a parliamentary resolution in 1994 underlined. The only issue now to be resolved in the "dispute" over Kashmir should be Pakistan’s vacation of PoK.
The Manmohan-Vajpayee doctrine recognised that a dialogue with Pakistan was necessary to demilitarise J&K, thus indirectly legitimising Pakistan’s claim on a part of Kashmir that is in India’s possession.
That argument has now shifted decisively. The only area in dispute and open to dialogue is the part of Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan.
This represents a paradigm shift in India’s stand on J&K. More that last week’s surgical strike, it is this shift and its long-term implications that has rattled Pakistan the most.
Meanwhile, banish three myths that invariably surface when Pakistan is under pressure as it is today. One, that "we are the same people". We are not.
Two, that "the people of Pakistan do not support terrorism against India". Most do. The antipathy towards Indians amongst ordinary Pakistanis is far stronger than most Indians recognise.
Three, "Both India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism". This false equivalence has infected the vocabulary of peace professionals in India. The difference of course is India does not send gangs of terrorists to Lahore and Islamabad to kill ordinary Pakistanis.
This fraudulent equivalence on terror victimhood is a narrative that, like strategic restraint, must be buried forever.