India should not gloat over moderate tactical success (Comment: Special to IANS)

The last three weeks may not have been historically momentous, as some in the establishment would like us to believe, but certainly India has been in the news, both within and globally, and more for good reasons. The reported surgical strikes conducted by India on September 29, 2016 at seven Pakistani terror-camp locations across the volatile Line of Control (LoC) changed the mood of the nation in one swift master-stroke.

That all political parties in India, cutting across party lines, unequivocally feted the Indian Army and the Modi government for this timely initiative to teach a perennially treacherous Pakistan a befitting lesson, showcased to the world Indian unity when confronted with a national challenge.

However, like any succulent dish, happy tidings have a nasty habit of not lingering for long. With the euphoria of India’s ‘macho’ actions against a terror-exporting Pakistan gradually receding, the mood in India’s agitated political environment is back to its not-so-cordial normal.

Electronic media channels, naturally looking for better TRPs, seemed to exacerbate the eternal political divide by pinning down some political parties with awkward and insolent questions on the parties’ sense of nationalism and their degree of support to the government, as if it is a quantifiable commodity.

Most political outfits seem to have walked into the media trap with the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), chest-thumping themselves as the sole repository of fiery patriotism leaving other political dispensations in the country far behind in self-assessed jingoistic formulations. Anyway, the media does not direct national policies and hence it is time for the nation to leave behind the cacophony of proving one’s patriotism, introspect and seriously plan for the myriad challenges looming ahead.

India’s surgical strike targeting Pakistan over a frontage of 250 km across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir has sent a clear message to the state and non-state actors conglomerate in Pakistan that India’s patience must not be taken for granted. However, it is apparent, once again, that history has a bad habit of repeating itself as regards Pakistan is concerned. Terror activities inside the Kashmir Valley, once again, are increasing, with the Pakistanis and their terrorist protégés taking on the security forces, snatching rifles from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police personnel besides committing arson at unprotected governmental buildings.

Pakistan has upped the ante along the International Border (IB) and LoC with unprovoked firings and multiple infiltration endeavours into J&K, before the onset of snow as happens each year. Their numerous sleeper cells would have been instructed to indulge in some sensational terror acts, not only in J&K but in the Indian hinterland, especially, in the current festival season and in areas where there are large public congregations.

With Pakistani mischief in full flow, India now needs to zealously implement some baby steps it pragmatically initiated recently. First and foremost, India must build up, with alacrity, its military muscle to thwart threats emanating from a two half-front challenge (China, Pakistan and internal security), even collectively in a worst case scenario. Combat capabilities take very long to fructify, and, thus both the armed forces and the government need to address operational voids with the urgency it deserves.

Secondly, India must pursue relentlessly the diplomatic measures it has instituted recently with the global community and the UN to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state. The singular way for Pakistan to be taught a lesson to live in a civilized way is for the many nations who fund Pakistan to survive to shut their financial aid to it. In the current scenario, the US and other EU nations may do so whilst China and Saudi Arabia will ensure that Pakistan remains financially solvent.

For China, its strategic game changer, namely, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and development of the Gwadar port is only possible with Pakistan’s submission to the Chinese, and thus come what may, China’s support for Pakistan is etched in stone. That the CPEC runs through the “disputed territories” in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is hardly of consequence to a nation like China which scoffs at internationally accepted norms in statecraft.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s consistent record in promoting terrorism across the world must prompt the international community imposing economic sanctions against it. Diplomatic ostracisation of Pakistan by the world community must be endeavoured for with greater determination by India as done at the recently concluded BRICS-BIMSTEC meetings in Goa.

Pakistan’s stock has predictably fallen with its South Asian neighbours and much over the globe as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lamenting the same to his Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) has come to indicate.

Importantly, India needs to carve out a consistent and coherent policy towards its continually errant neighbor. India must cut off all economic, social and diplomatic ties with Pakistan. Diplomatic representation with Pakistan should be downgraded with immediate effect. Pakistan has prevented Indian trade with Afghanistan and thence towards the Central Asian Republics, we must take away the most-favored nation status granted to Pakistan that is not reciprocated by them. The enduring message to Pakistan should be that we do not need them anyway.

The villain-de-piece in Pakistan is its own army. Far from defending its own country, the Pakistani Army is busy guarding its multi-billion dollar industry (FAUJI Foundation, Shaheen Foundation, Bahria Inc and the like) and perpetuating the opulent lifestyles of its officers. The Americans, who have traditionally looked the other way and glossed over the many sins of their errant protégés, must now factor in the untrustworthiness of the Pakistani army and its unwavering ties with anti-US terrorist outfits. If nuclear waywardness ever results, it will stem from a failing state like Pakistan with repercussions not only for the region but the world. Nevertheless, the Pakistani army can take comfort in the precedent that the US is not brimming with strategic prudence anyway.

Keeping one’s guard up in totality and the powder dry, India has to be ready for any eventuality in the entire spectrum of conflict. Persistent gloating over a moderate tactical success across the LoC is hardly becoming of the largest state in South Asia as it endeavours to establish a safe and harmonious environment in the region.

(Lt. Gen. Kamal Davar (retd.) was the first Chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency and Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff. The views expressed are personal. The article is by arrangement with South Asia Monitor/www.southasiamonitor.org)

–IANS

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