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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Pakistan’s Kashmir hopes hinge on Valley’s alienation from India

Pakistan’s objective is to make India extrapolate the actions of a few as the stereotype of millions. We must not allow it.

analysis Updated: Feb 20, 2019 12:09 IST
Raghu Raman
Raghu Raman
A candle light vigil organised by NDMC to pay tribute to the CRPF personnel killed in the Pulwama attack, New Delhi, February 17
A candle light vigil organised by NDMC to pay tribute to the CRPF personnel killed in the Pulwama attack, New Delhi, February 17(Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

The Pulwama attack is strategic and initiated by the Pakistani deep state with or without the tacit blessings of the Pakistani Army and China.

Our response options are limited. We don’t have adequate force levels to launch a conventional war, since we would also have to factor the Chinese sabre rattling in the North East. A surgical strike is out of the question, as we don’t have the element of surprise and with the effectiveness of a PMO-monitored strike having been punctured, another attempt would have negative value, especially if any Special Forces are captured alive.

We have the military option of “limited recce in force”, ( pushing forth in certain border areas with an objective of dominating or capturing pieces of land). Another option is pummeling the line of control with incessant artillery fire. But this will have little effect on the deep state leadership. Instead, it will swell the ranks of militants from the valley, as the artillery will cause collateral damage.

Air interdiction on terror camps is largely ineffectual. Both sides will claim victory but Pakistan will retain the initiative. It just has to activate another attack to show the air interdiction as ineffectual. India cannot up the ante without increasing the threshold to theatre level battle at the minimum, at which stage the nuclear card will be shuffled. Even if we do launch an offensive, calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff, we end up being the loser.

Pakistan is living from dole to dole. Its power centres are struggling for control. A novice Prime Minister, no matter how well-meaning, is buffeted among conflicting forces. The Pakistani military’s radical faction views business oriented generals as soft towards India and will jockey towards an escalation, right until the nuclear threshold, necessitating US and Chinese intervention and internal power rearrangements.

When the dust settles, Pakistan will be worse off, but that would be of little consolation to us. We will spend inordinate resources on strengthening our war machinery instead of other nation building initiatives. Our economic progress will be crippled for decades. Loss of human life will be incalculable.

The big five, US, France, UK, Russia and China will gain in terms of influence and weapon sales. China will have the additional benefit of increasing its stranglehold on Pakistan and the subcontinent. Ironically, we stand to lose far more in a conflict with Pakistan notwithstanding the ambition of dismembering that country. Any such event will only open a Pandora’s box for the region.

However, unless we respond, we will not shape a long term solution, even if that solution is an uneasy peace. Peace, even uneasy, is better than war, which can’t end a conflict.

To defeat a guerilla strategy, we must address the root of the hydra, not its head. This is difficult but doable. A terror outfit is the manifestation of its political, operational and ideological leaders. The actual suicide bombers are mere pawns. Social inclusion will not stem that flow, as can be seen by the ISIS recruits from first world countries. No single vector will reduce terrorism. Instead, it has to be an integrated combination of many steps.

The first of these steps is political and economic isolation of Pakistan. There isn’t much room for play here. China will continue to bail it out economically, but this move strengthens the anti-China faction within Pakistan. There is intense push back within Pakistan about the increasing influence of China in Pakistani policy making.

The second move is to target the Pakistani deep state. China has played spoiler here brazenly preventing all attempts to declare blatant terror outfits as such, protecting them, if not actively assisting their expansion.

Our strategic recourse therefore is to go after the deep state leadership and their supporters. India must demonstrate the capability to identify and isolate the leadership. Sure, this isn’t a quick win and will not satisfy the revenge baiters who are baying for a Bollywoodesque blow. This is not even about covert hit teams. This is about going after the economic interest of every Pakistani general and political leader.

It is about identifying sources of revenue and stymying them. It is about calling out the duplicity of religious fundamentalists -- showcasing their opulent and carnal lifestyle. It is about understanding the difference between the Pakistani people, Pakistani Army, Pakistani Deep State and Pakistani politicians and dealing with them differently. And most importantly, it is about understanding their common playbook.

The success of Pakistan’s Kashmir aspirations hinges on alienation of the valley’s people from India. It is Pakistan’s strategic objective to make us extrapolate the actions of few elements as the stereotype of millions and we will be playing right into its hands if we don’t anticipate and thwart such moves . Adil Dar murdered 40 souls, but we will murder the idea of India if we fall prey to the Pakistani playbook.

Raghu Raman is former CEO, NATGRID

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 19:32 IST

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