With Pakistan in the denial mode in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, former Indian Army chief General VP Malik on Tuesday advised the government to keep the military option open and former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra suggested that New Delhi should persuade Washington to cut off aid to the Pakistani Army.
"We should not say we are ruling out the military option. At least, there should not have been a public statement," Malik said at a discussion on India's options vis-à-vis Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
He was referring to Defence Minister AK Antony's remarks on Tuesday ruling out the military option.
"Like the Kabul attacks, the ISI had a hand in the Mumbai attacks. The ISI is the creation of the Pakistani Army," he said while underlining that the Mumbai attacks could not have happened without "official conspiracy or complicity".
Malik, however, said that before considering military action the government has to hold a "politico-military discussion" and forge "political consensus" to ensure that the military action hurts the Pakistan government without dragging India into a nuclear war or ground war with Pakistan.
According to Malik, the military option could consist of air strikes on terror camps without collateral damage and commando raids on military installations close to the border. India may also consider a naval blockade that will hurt Pakistan's economy and affect supplies for NATO troops, generating international pressure on Pakistan in the process, he said.
The success of the military action will depend on how the Indian government manages international opinion, he said. Such a limited confrontation for which India has the capability will convey a strong warning to Pakistan, he said.
Former prime minister IK Gujral, however, struck a cautious note saying that it should not be forgetten that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. Recalling his conversation with former US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley, he said the American envoy told him that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons against India as its first and last option in a case of war.
The diplomatic options, according to Malik, will include putting international pressure on Pakistan to bring the ISI under civilian control and keeping "minimal engagement with Pakistan" by putting a "freeze" on any new confidence-building measures.
Mishra agreed with Malik about bringing the ISI under civilian control, but took the argument a step further saying Pakistan's military should be reined in as the ISI was its creation.
"There are options available which can make the US, the UK and other major powers look at the problem from the point of view of India," Mishra said while advocating a more focused approach to bringing meaningful international pressure on Pakistan that will force it to dismantle terrorist infrastructure.
"Unless their strategy is affected by your action, they will not act in your favour," he said.
"If you want the Pakistani Army to give up jihadi groups, you have to apply material pressure on them. They can't survive without support of the US," he stressed.
Alluding to the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Mishra said that the US must be made to realise that Pakistan wants the Taliban to succeed in Afghanistan. "If it goes on like this, there could be a division of Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.
Former foreign minister Jaswant Singh linked up terrorism in South Asia with the failure of the US policy in the region.
"The Taliban was a creation of the US. It was established by Pakistani Army with the assistance of the US," Singh said. "The consequences of their policies are being felt in the region. We are paying the price for it," he said.