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4 Ways India Can Send A Strong Message To Pakistan, Without Military Force

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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.

Isolation At The International Level

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.

Granting Asylums

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.

Indus Water Treaty : A New Recourse

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.

Digital Warfare

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.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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