New Delhi is formulating a reply to Sunday’s terror attack on an Army camp at Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, but it should do so with reason and resolve and not rage and inflamed passion. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s call for abandoning strategic restraint and asking for the ‘complete jaw’ in exchange of a ‘tooth’ is not the way forward. The government has to find a way of dealing with Pakistan but it must also analyse its limitations and strengths. While drafting its policy on Pakistan, New Delhi must also tighten security protocols and examine how the militants cross the Line of Control to attack military installations at Pathankot in January and Uri on Sunday.
Successive Indian governments have not been able to articulate a consistent policy on how deal with terrorism. It has tried flexing its muscles and cajoling the militant groups but has not been successful. The Vajpayee government had raised the heat after the attack on Parliament but later Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself visited Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too got back to talks even after the Mumbai attacks of 2008.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is treading the same path: First, he invited his counterpart for his swearing-in ceremony and then cancelled foreign secretary-level talks. Pakistan has always believed that it can get away with exporting terror through non-State actors. India must first understand the mindset of the Pakistani ‘deep State’ and then calibrate a response it can articulate and sustain.
The response to Uri cannot — and must not be — shaped either by public anger, the rage of the BJP’s rank and file or even by pressure from the Army, which is itching to retaliate. Hot pursuit and surgical strikes are words that can hardly be taken against a nuclear neighbour.
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Strikes against terror camps — which keep shifting from place to place — will not remove the source of the problem. Similarly, covert operations will not help assuage public anger. As India looks towards revving up the engines of its economy, a military escalation of any kind cannot be an option.
The Centre’s best bet lies in embarrassing Pakistan at international platforms and isolating it. India could start by laying out proof of attacks by Pakistan’s proxies at the UN General Assembly, where external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to speak. The way forward lies in building a political consensus at home and in isolating Pakistan abroad. The stakes for the Modi government are high and it should stay the course