Uri Attacks:Is Attack the best form of Defence?

The early dawn of September 18, Pakistani irregulars belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed(JeM) attacked an Army camp in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir,killing 18 jawans and inflicting grievous casualties on many more.The Fidayeen were able to breach the Line of Control as also the camp’s security, employing a combination of incendiary grenades and close-quarter weapons to inflict heavy casualties.The Uri attack had a close similarity to the Pathankot Air Force base in January this year, in which seven security personnel were killed, Lessons from that incident obviously have not been filtered down.What is significant is that the JeM was responsible for both attacks.The JeM is the hand maiden of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI).It obeys implicitly,and acts directly on the directions of ISI.Prime Minister Narendra Modi now has the opportunity to deliver the message he advocated-but he is still searching for the right words.Logic though tells us that the Prime Minister’s advisors have five basic options on the table.

The First is the old-fashioned one: Retaliate along the Line of Control, using eye for tooth rules that both the Indian and Pakistani armies understand quite well.The Pakistani army posts, that help infiltration are ideally, the same ones that aided the attack-will be identified and obliterated, using missiles or special forces.This is the option the army prefers,knowing that it serves its main purpose  deterrence with the least risk of escalation.India has, indeed sometimes staged unpublicized retaliatory actions across the LoC-for example,destroying Pakistani forward posts after the kidnapping and beheading of its soldiers in the raids by the country’s special forces in 2011 and 2013.From the point of view of political leadership though, this is the least attractive option, for the simple reason that it cannot be bragged about.Fighting along the Loc will hurt Pakistan-but it will hurt India even more, since it will let Jihadists slip through counter-infiltration defences with relative ease.

The Second option-the one most attractive to politicians-are air or missile strikes on the jihadist targets across the LoC, which are highly visible but stop short of outright conflict.In the years since 26/11,india’s ability to conduct such strikes has been significantly enhanced.However the tactic isn’t always succesful.In August 1998,the US fired missiles into Afghanistan,seeking to avenge bombings which killed 224 people.In all,75 missiles,each priced at $1.5 miilion, killed six minor jihadists.Even worse Pakistan could hit back,targeting Indian industrial infrastructure, which is much more expensive than the tent and donkey-cart training camps.

Like Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee before him, Prime Minister Modi has a third choice-to use coercion,but stop short of full throttle escalation.In 2001,after terrorist attacked Parliament, India mobilised troops.Pakistan was forced to respond in kind.Its nuclear weapons stopped India from attacking,its smaller economy though suffered disproportionately.The statergem is time tested.in 1953,Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru mobilised troops in Punjab to deter a Pakistani attack into Kashmir.The Vajpayee strategy worked,forcing Pakistan to dramatically scale down the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir.But it was hideously expensive,in money and lives-and for a prime minister who is relentlessly focused on economic growth, this ia a real issue.

Fourth Prime Minister Modi could try covert means, like bomb-for-bomb strikes in Pakistan, or targeted assassinations of jihadist leaders.The problem is,jihadists India targets will hit back-and as Indian citizens die there will be public outcry.If the government had invested in growing India’s police and intelligence capacities to absorb the back lash, this might be less of a concern-but central support for police modernisation has actually been slashed.

Finally there is a fifth option: Do nothing.This sounds callous-but it isn’t as worthless an idea as it seems.In the grand scheme of things,securing Kashmir’s internal security and maintain  counter-infiltration defences,are what are important to India-not vengeance

All of India feels that mere impotent rage and euphuistic excesses are insufficiant.there is clamour for action,all the more because the present government had come into office promising strong action against Pakistan.’The shoe is now on the other foot,and the wearer is since learning where the shoe pinches’. The need for caution is even more imperative today ,as not only is the world more interconnected and events in anyone region do have a geopolitical impact,but the stakes for India as one of the world’s leading economic powers have become considerable.Utmore care needs to be taken considering any military option.Pakistan may be a ‘basket case’ approximating to North Korea,but like the latter it is a ‘militarised’ state which has ‘nuclear teeth’.

As quoted by one political genius, “The security and sovereignty of our nation has been challenged.We will confront it,and we hope we will receive support from all right thinking nations.We do not expect them to fight our battle,but the world has to decide that definitions of terrorism cannot be different.yardsticks cannot be differnt.there must be only one Yardstick for Terrorism”- Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

And by a genius Economist,”It is in times of adversity that the true metal of a nation is tested.We must remain calm and be resolute.We will give a fitting rebuff to our enemies.the idea of India as a functioning democracy and a pluralist society is at stake.this is the time for national unity and i seek your cooperation.Truth and righteousness are on our side and together we shall prevail”-Prime Minister ManMohan Singh

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