Areas near India’s de-facto border with Pakistan, the Line of Control, have been on the boil since Indian special forces carried out “surgical strikes” against temporary military bases -- or launchpads -- in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir last week.
The army operation was widely seen as retribution for an attack on an army base in northern Kashmir’s Uri that left 19 soldiers dead. India blames Pakistan for the attack, a charge Islamabad has rebuffed.
Relations between India and Pakistan nosedived after army’s surgical strikes across the LoC with rising tensions, shelling and ceasefire violations – amid diplomatic wrangling at major international fora. Islamabad has denied that the strikes ever took place.
But barely had the dust settled,militants again hit a paramilitary base in Baramulla , escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. The targeted operations across the LoC seem to have failed to deter the six militants, who used civilians as human shields to escape after killing one soldier and wounding another.
So what does India do now?
More surgical strikes: Destroy more launchpads without making noise. The September 29 cross-border raids were announced for two reasons: Exposing Pakistan globally as a terror factory and telling the country that such acts would be dealt with an iron fist.
Flipside: Things can spin out of control. Pakistan will not take things lying down. The possibility of a full-blown war cannot be ruled out. Also, if the Indian Army suffers casualties, it will cause some serious embarrassment and India will be seen as the aggressor. What if a mission backfires and they succeed in capturing Indian soldiers? Imagine those images being beamed on TV channels.
Covert ops: Identify military targets across the LoC and move in special forces for the mission. Bridges, ammunition dumps, communication networks and Pakistan army bases could be attacked. It’s important to keep up the pressure on Pakistan. Advantage: Deniability factor. Excuse us, we never did it.
Isolating Pakistan: The fate of the Saarc summit in Pakistan serves to illustrate how diplomacy has helped corner Islamabad. Military means coupled with diplomatic outreach can have favourable results.
Positive: Pakistan loses face globally, comes under tremendous pressure to crack down on terror networks.
Muscular stance: India should turn up the heat on Pakistan at the LoC. Local commanders should be given a free hand to use artillery fire and inflict casualties on the neighbouring army. A muscular stance will send a strong message -acts of terror will not go unpunished. At the same time, the army should be prepared for a counter-offensive from Pakistan at all times.
Flipside: If the LoC gets hot, India should be prepared for civilian casualties too. Pakistan has a tendency to target villages along the de-facto border.
Plugging gaps: The army should make sure that there are no holes in its counter-infiltration and counter-terrorism grid that allow militants to sneak and carry out such attacks. Highest level of surveillance required at the LoC to ensure militants are kept away.
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