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India Finally Sheds Two Decades of ‘Strategic Restraint’ against Pakistan: Reflections

Paper No 6176                                 Dated 30-Sept-2016

By Dr Subhash Kapila

India’s military strikes across the LOC on Pakistan Army harboured terrorists launching pads in the early hours of September 29 2016 marks a paradigm shift in India’s much needed dispensing of ‘Strategic Restraint’ against Pakistan’s  military provocations.

India by now has clearly signalled politically, diplomatically and yesterday militarily that henceforth Pakistan Army’s military adventurism against India, whether through direct military action or through Jihadi terrorists affiliates proxy would invite Indian punitive military actions.

Before examining the implications in the Pakistan-context, what needs highlighting is that India has sent out a strong message to the Major Powers that India cannot await the international community to put an end to Pakistan’s terrorism proxy war against India. India waited for a decade for the Global War on Terror to target Pakistan as the incubator of global terror, but nothing happened. India now henceforth will deal militarily with Pakistan-facilitated and financed terrorism on its own accord. Should Pakistan elect for climbing the ‘escalation ladder’ as a consequence to Indian military strikes against launch pads within Pakistan territory, then India is so prepared too. Pakistan’s nuclear sabre-rattling is an issue of global concern and the Major Powers should deal with this nuclear threat.

Since the Major Powers have conferred the status of an Emerging Power on India and expects that India should be a nett-provider of regional security in South Asia and South East Asia then it follows that the Major Powers also accede the right to India of reordering the region for security and stability. Major Powers therefore should restrain from supporting regional spoilers like Pakistan, even if it is nuclear-armed.

India in resorting to punitive and pre-emptive military strikes across the LOC into Pakistani territory, for the first time, would have clearly calculated, deliberated and prepared contingency plans against Pakistan Army’s propensity for reckless ‘conflict escalation’.

India’s military strikes against Pakistan across the LOC  needs to be weighed therefore not as some knee-jerk reaction under pressure from highly incensed Indian public opinion but a considered and calibrated exercise of the military option with the aim of sending multiple messages to those targeting the Indian Republic.

Primarily, it is the Pakistan Army’s military adventurism that has been targeted sending the message that while the present military strikes against them may have been limited, the Pakistan Army should note that there is a marked change in India’s strategic intentions and strategic policies. The present Indian military strikes across the LOC against Pakistan Army terrorists launch pads against India portends that should Pakistan Army not restrain from such activities, India would not hesitate to go in for a wider and a stronger military response.

Consequently, the more significant message to the Pakistan Army military hierarchy and Pakistani political leaders that they control is that India now has the POLITICAL WILL to go up the ‘conflict escalation’ ladder against Pakistan. India will not be deterred by Pakistan’s nuclear sabre-rattling anymore. The myth of Pakistan’s nuclear threat was broken during the Kargil War when India launched a limited war to evict Pakistan from the Kargil Heights and this was done under Pakistan’s nuclear threat shadows.

India’s military strikes against terrorists launch pads across the LOC also sends dual-messages to both Pakistan Army and the terror outfits like LeT and JeM that India will henceforth reserve the right to strike them across the LOC also if needed. Who knows that if Pakistan Army elects to go up the ‘escalation ladder’ then at some stage India may be forced to strike against the HQs of these outfits in Pakistan.

The third message in my assessment, whether intended or not, should be read by the Hurriyet leaders in the Kashmir Valley and the Kashmiri militants that they should expect India to choke-off their material and financial supply-lines emanating from Pakistan. India has no place for sedition or dissent of the Jihadi variety.

Moving to Pakistan Army reactions to India having crossed the threshold of ‘Strategic Restraint’ against Pakistan by its military strikes across the LOC, the first thing that requires noting is that the Pakistan Army cannot be expected to get paralysed into inaction.

Pakistan Army under the existing circumstances has two major options. The first option would be to resort to ‘conflict escalation’ both in terms of intensifying conflict levels and also by widening the scope of the conflict. This would indicate that in desperation Pakistan s signalling that it is ready to climb the ‘escalation ladder’ including nuclear warfare. Preposterous as this may sound but then when has Pakistan behaved rationally?

Pakistan resort to this option cannot be resorted to in a vacuum. Pakistan would have to weigh the international ramifications against the backdrop of its global isolation preceding India’s present strategy. Pakistan’s allies like China and Russia can logically not be expected to support Pakistan’s military adventurism.

Pakistan’s second option would be to limit escalation to intensification of military actions to the LOC and the IB sector in J&K State to include widespread border clashes, artillery duels and even cross-border raids on Indian military installations.

Pakistan’s most attractive option would be to resort to increased infiltration into Kashmir Valley, and activation of its sleeper cells all across India to resort to Mumbai 9/11 type terrorist attacks. In short, Pakistan will find it attractive to resort to an all-out recourse to asymmetric warfare against India.

The whole range of Pakistani options to retaliate against India cannot be discussed here but suffice it to say that Pakistan would resort to ‘internationalise’ the conflict that Pakistan has been subjected to Indian aggression and thereby bring India to the negotiating table. India must never agree to negotiate till such time its national objectives are fully met.

Twenty-four hours have past and yet media reports indicate that the Pakistan government and the Pakistan Army hierarchy are in a huddle to formulate its responses to Indian military strikes across the LOC, India’s contingency planning has to prepare for the worst and surely the Indian Armed Forces would have done that.

In conclusion, it needs to be emphasised that India needs to be doubly prepared to meet Pakistani retaliations both on its borders and more importantly on the internal security front. India’s high rate of war preparedness is an essential imperative to meet Pakistan’s resort to climbing the escalation ladder against India.

 

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