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India’s Surgical Strikes into Pakistan: The Unintended Consequences

Paper No. 6181                                  Dated 10-Oct-2016

By Dr Subhash Kapila

India’s surgical strikes into Pakistan has not only been a game-changer for India’s strategic assertions but as an unintended consequence stirred more notably a domestic debate within Pakistan on its ISI-sponsored Jihadi terrorist outfits and Kashmir.

Questioning has broken out vocally in Pakistan, as never before, on whether it is in Pakistan’s interests to allow the Pakistan Army and its notorious ISI intelligence outfit to continue with the policy of nurturing Jihadi terrorism outfits for provocative attacks on targets in India. In short, what one is observing presently arising from India’s diplomatic isolation of Pakistan as a prelude to Indian surgical strikes, and its international aftermath, is that Pakistan Army’s strategies of state-sponsored terrorism, use of so-called non-state actors and other disruptive actions against India, are under closer global scrutiny and also within Pakistan, more notably.

Pakistani political leaders, MPs and columnists are aghast at the lack of international condemnation for India’s surgical strikes into Pakistan to pre-empt terrorist strikes against India by striking at their launch-pads. That India could have struck deeper into Pakistan and did not do so as it wanted to limit the surgical strikes on Pakistan Army terrorism sponsorship seems also to have gone down well with the international community. Responsible Pakistanis seem to have grasped the foregoing reality in international responses and this has emboldened them to question both the political establishment and the Pakistan Army and its ISI on this count.

Never before Pakistani MPs have openly raised in the National Assembly as to what advantages accrue to Pakistan by shielding proscribed LeT and JeM leaders and why the Pakistani Government is not banning such terrorists’ outfits? Of course they know the answer that it is the Pakistan Army that is the patron saint of such terrorist outfits. The attack though indirect on the Pakistan Army is a notable development.

Reports by noted columnists suggest that the civilian government has sent a “blunt, orchestrated, and unprecedented” message to Pakistan’s military leadership that Pakistan could end up in total international isolation if so-called Jihadi non-state terrorist outfits are not restrained from operating against India.

But the bluntest message came in a recent opinion-editorial in Dawn which read “No Role for Military in Pakistan in Policy Making” which also made clear that non-state actors have no role in policymaking. It is a serious rebut to the Pakistan Army which is the fountainhead of such strategies and uses them as instruments of state policy. It was also stated that there was consensus on this count in the Pakistani Parliament’s 22-Point Resolution incorporating the sense of the Parliament that Pakistan Army has no role in Pakistan’s policy-making and certainly not the use of jihadi terrorists outfits nurtured and sustained by the Army

This should be an unintended windfall gain for Prime Minister Modi’s Pakistan policies and should be a rebuttal of Indian Opposition leaders accusing the Government of adopting the surgical strikes into Pakistan last month for political gains. India’s gains are far more substantial and game-changing than what India’s Opposition Party leaders define in their narrow political expediency perspectives.

India could be said to have therefore gained strategically, militarily and politically.

Strategically, it marks India maturing into an assertive regional power; militarily it should be reassuring for the Indian Republic and the Government that the Indian Armed Forces can be expected to rise up to security challenges credibly, even though war preparedness suffered in the period 2004-14: and politically, and more significantly that this has generated a political debate within Pakistan of questioning Pakistan Army’s hold, directions and content of its India-policies. Realisation is finally dawning within Pakistan as to how damaging Pakistan Army’s such policies are now becoming for Pakistan’s international image.

Similarly, some reservations have emerged within Pakistan on the efficacy of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. Objectively speaking, all right thinking Pakistanis should be questioning as to how successful Pakistan Army’s Kashmir policy has been in the last six decades and even now in 2016. Pakistan Army fought three of its four wars against India specifically targeted in wresting military control of Kashmir. In all three wars Pakistan Army stood defeated and the third war stirred by Pakistan Army’s military adventurism against India resulted in the break-up of Pakistan. Pakistan Army’s final weapon on Kashmir was launching Islamic Jihadi terrorists and in 2016 it has resulted in India’s first-ever surgical strikes.

But an Opinion Editorial by a noted expert on Pakistan, Owen Bennet Jones in the DAWN summed-up succinctly Pakistan’s inability to draw support on the Kashmir issue, wherein he states “Few in the international community are enthusiastic about transferring power (in Kashmir) from a secular Indian Government to local politicians in Kashmir who may at some stage be unable to resist the Jihadis….”. The same piece also illustrates that “Independence movements associated with violent jihadism run counter to post-9/11 policies of great powers—including Russia, to resist Islamic extremism wherever they see it”. Should not the Pakistan Army Collegium of Generals be paying heed to this contemporary reality?

Another Pakistani columnist lamented that the Pakistani establishment has allowed militant groups to restructure the national identity of Pakistan and that “now is the time to completely neutralise such regressive forces”. In other words, Pakistan’s total diplomatic isolation following Indian Army surgical strikes provides an opportunity to change the national discourse.

For India that should be welcome news and also for those in the international community who always stood hard-pressed to defend Pakistan Army’s strategic and military delinquencies, more notably the use of terrorism as instrument of state policy against India. Pakistan does need a change of narratives in its India-policy so far narrowly defined in terms of adversarial and disruptive strategies of the Pakistan Army.

Concluding, one piously hopes that the trend in the making within Pakistan of questioning Pakistan Army’s policies on terrorism and using the fig-leaf of non-state actors in changed geopolitical circumstances is seriously denting the image and credibility of the Pakistani state, gains more momentum and sustainability in the interests of Pakistan’s future. For far too long the Pakistan nation-state has allowed the Pakistan Army to script Pakistan’s national discourse and it is high time that Pakistanis step-in to change the dubious existing narrative. Pakistan deserves a much better future than what the Pakistan Army presently scripts.

 

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