By Shubhranshu Suman and Ujjwal Pandey:
The attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters in Uri shook the nation’s soul, inviting rhetoric comments from all sections of the society. There were calls to conduct military strikes in Pakistan to project India’s resolve to counter any threat emanating from the neighbouring country.
These calls were well received when the Indian army conducted dauntless surgical strikes on terrorist “launch pads” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir along the Line of Control. The statement from the Director General of Military Operations, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, stating that India was ceasing all operations with no plans for such actions, implies that the strikes were meant to project India’s military prowess and battle preparedness, with no intention of escalation.
This strike is a classic example of display of military restraint when the stated objectives of a military operation are accomplished. Amidst all the fuzz surrounding the retaliation to Uri attacks, the Indian Army has shown that it is extremely important to be pragmatic in our response. Now that the surgical strikes are over, it is significant to explore all non-military means that can be employed to build sustained pressure on Pakistan.
India can reinforce the most conventional way of diplomatic resentment: condemnation of Pakistan on all multilateral forums to isolate it internationally. The Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj’s address to the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is a grand start to this strategy, where she accused Pakistan of nurturing and turning the evil of terrorism into a hydra-headed monster. Similarly, as India backed out from the 19th SAARC summit, followed by Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan, has sent a strong message to Pakistan that India isn’t going to sit back and watch.
Though Nepal, current chair of the SAARC, is urging member states to attend the summit, it is necessary that India ensures the SAARC summit doesn’t happen this year as it will be a major regional embarrassment for Pakistan.
Following in the footsteps of Indira Gandhi before the 1971 war, the government should send envoys to influential world capitals, notably US Western allies, to gather support for action against Pakistan because of the patronage it allegedly grants to designated terrorists like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and Sayeed Salahudeen. This would initiate a chain of international lobbying, pushing the “Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act”, introduced in the US House of Representatives, to its early conclusion.
With the US Presidential Elections round the corner, it is imperative that India intensifies its diplomatic operations to get the law into effect before President Obama leaves office.
Long dormant avenues of diplomatic offence, like granting political asylum to Brahamdagh Bugti and Hyrbyair Marri have to be considered. This would be a great leap forward in the bid for gaining greater autonomy for Balochistan. Political asylum given to Dalai Lama way back in 1959 has kept the Tibetan movement alive and a similar Indian approach vis-à-vis Pakistan will keep Balochistan at the centre of attention, giving India an effective leverage against Pakistan.
Offering safe havens to family members of prominent Baloch nationalists will go a long way in building long-term goodwill for India among Balochis. In the past, India has provided asylum to the family of former Afghanistan President Mohammed Najibullah and other top officials, after he was murdered by the Taliban.
However, caution can be exercised while exploring these options as India’s excessive adventurism in Balochistan may induce secessionist tendencies among minority Balochis in Iran and Afghanistan, with whom India wants cordial relations.
While military action can bring limited gains and diplomatic retaliation will take time to materialise, it is the retaliation on the economic front, like capitalise on the Indus Waters Treaty (a water distribution treaty between India & Pakistan that decided which country ought to use water from which rivers and for what purposes) that needs serious contemplation.
The IWT is perhaps the only treaty of its kind that stands as a testimony to the generosity of an upper riparian state, in this case, India. Even after multiple Indo-Pak wars, the treaty stood the test of time. But now the time is opportune to use the treaty to reinforce our position. Firstly, infrastructure projects need to be accelerated to fully utilise the waters of the three eastern rivers: Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, the ones India has, under the existing terms of the treaty.
The second prong of strategy with respect to the IWT is regarding the western rivers – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. India can get the Pakistani government to renegotiate the IWT, just as the US did with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. India should base its demands for renegotiation on the fact that water requirements in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir have multiplied over the years.
It is highly unlikely that Pakistan will accept any Indian demands to change the provisions of the IWT. But India will be able to wrest diplomatic initiative vis-à-vis Pakistan and reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir; as India will directly link the treaty with the welfare of the Kashmiris.
Perhaps, the most unexplored retaliatory option is the use of cyberspace to launch attacks on Pakistan’s digital networks. It offers the advantages of swiftness, minimal casualties, plausible deniability and severe damage to Pakistan’s infrastructure. India can develop its offensive cyber capabilities to fully harness the potential of this option.
It is high time that India calls Pakistan’s bluff for nuclear retaliation. Pakistan knows very well that a pre-emptive strike on India will invite strong retaliation. No such mishaps have happened in the past, even when the threat of nuclear warfare was greater, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 and the Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969.
The Uri attack seems to be carefully calibrated to match with the ongoing tensions in the valley. It also coincides with 71st session of the UNGA; exposing Pakistan’s intent to internationalise the Kashmir issue. However, prompt response by the Indian forces along with the offensive diplomacy will go a long way in sustaining pressure on Pakistan.