August 7, 2015

Punch hard, punch now

India must realise that this ‘no war, no peace’ status with Pakistan will continue with terror strikes, retaliations and cross-border firings unless it retaliates strongly, to every provocation.
On August 4, while delivering the 21st Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture on “State Security, Statecraft and Conflict of Values” in Mumbai, national security adviser Ajit Doval not only raised a pertinent point but also exhibited clarity in Indian strategic thinking. He said, “India has a mentality to punch below its weight. We should not punch below our weight or above our weight, but improve our weight and punch proportionately.”
The time has come for India to retaliate with overt and/or covert operations against the latest Pakistani terror strikes. Failure to do so will only give credence to the perception, internationally, that India is a soft state and invite more terror attacks and cross-LoC firings.
Today aircraft and naval and Coast Guard ships patrol the coastal areas 24x7 to counter sea-based terror and piracy, while a chain of coastal radar stations keep track of sea traffic within 30 miles of the coasts. The Army, Air Force and the intelligence agencies are also on high alert. So are we safe from more terror attacks?
On March 12, 1993, whilst in command of the missile warship INS Ranjit in Mumbai harbour, I recall seeing through the porthole a huge blast in a building not very far away. A few hours later I learnt about the 13 blasts that had rocked Mumbai, killing over 257 innocents and injuring over 1,400 people. India was in a poor economic state then and not much was done to improve coastal security even after it was learnt that Dawood Ibrahim and his gang, assisted by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, had smuggled in explosives from Karachi by the porous sea route using fishing boats. This laid the foundation of the vicious 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks on Mumbai in 2008.
This year, on July 27, there was a fidayeen attack on a police station in Dinapur (Gurdaspur district of Punjab). On August 3, there was an article by former Pakistan police DG Tariq Khosa where he stated that Pakistan had enough proof about the 26/11 perpetrators. On August 5, a Pakistani terrorist named Usman Khan (alias Naved) of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba was captured from Udhampur. All these incidents show that Pakistan — feeling secure behind its ambiguous nuclear doctrine of using tactical nuclear weapons — is once again pushing the envelope to expand its terror activities beyond Kashmir.
The reason for this is simple. The Pakistan Army, which runs the nation’s foreign policy with respect to Afghanistan and India, has realised that if India continues to grow economically, at over eight per cent annually, it will be impossible to keep up the charade of the “existential Indian threat”, as the vast majority of the Pakistani public will see the benefits of economic co-operation with India.
Peace and tranquility with India will automatically lower the power of the Pakistan Army and also drastically reduce its share of the national budget. At present, India’s GDP is 11 times that of Pakistan, and this difference will continue to grow as India’s economy surges ahead.
Unmindful of its failing economy and internal threats from religious fundamentalists, the Pakistan Army has decided to side with the “good (anti-India) terrorists”, like Hafeez Saeed. While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would like to have improved ties and trade with India, he needs the permission of Gen. Raheel Sharif, the Pakistan Army Chief, for any changes in foreign policy regarding India or Afghanistan.
For three years I participated in the Track-II dialogue with Pakistan, discussing conventional and nuclear issues. By the time I left, in 2014, I had the impression that a few of the retired Pakistan generals believed that India would never go to war over a terrorist attack. And in case of a limited border skirmish, India would not retaliate with nuclear weapons even if Pakistan used tactical nuclear weapons.
Pakistan erroneously believing that India will not retaliate, that it will continue to expand the scope of its terror campaign against India even as it faces an existential threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al Qaeda on its western border.
The ISI will try to find new, innovative ways to overcome improved Indian security measures, like attempting a repeat of 26/11 by sea against another coastal target or even a 9/11-type of attack. While a war with Pakistan (or China) would be disastrous for the Indian economy, the Indian government needs to have contingency plans in place so that any future Pakistan-based terror attacks are deterred by conventional, non-conventional and covert means.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to ensure that Indian citizens are safe and that foreign investment inflows (which are expected to increase as China’s economy slows down) are not scared away by Pakistani terror attacks.
If India can continue to grow economically at over eight per cent annually, and also have good relations with other nations of the Indian Ocean Region, while taking military-diplomatic steps to checkmate China, it can follow a “proportionate” retaliatory policy against Pakistan.
India’s economic growth will leave an impoverished Pakistan with only two options — to cooperate with India and grow as a modern nation, or keep growing its terror machinery to attack India even as it disintegrates within and become an Islamist terror state.
India needs to implement plans to counter the growth of the ISIS as well because it is a “prized target” of these medieval fundamentalists.
India must realise that this “no war, no peace” status with Pakistan will continue with occasional terror strikes, retaliations and cross-border firings unless it retaliates strongly to every provocation.
The great challenge before Mr Modi is the safety, security and economic growth of India, while managing the emerging challenge of China and the threat of the ISIS. India must become so strong economically and militarily that our enemies are compelled to have good relations with us.


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