War is Not a Solution. #surgicalstrikes
By Indranil Banerjie
The celebratory drum beating that followed the 29 September “surgical strikes” by the Indian Army against terrorist camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir was expected given that terrorist attacks on India over the years have all gone unchallenged.
Prior to this, despite damning evidence pointing invariably to Pakistan, the risk averse Indian leadership never retaliated against its nuclear capable neighbour.
The “surgical strikes” therefore came as a paradigm change; and with change comes uncertainty.
Central to any prognosis arising from latest counter-terrorism strike is the likely response of Pakistan’s ruling elite.
Two fundamental factors shape the Pakistani establishment’s intrinsically offensive strategic mode: its Timurid mindset and the necessity of the smaller combatant to adopt an offensiveposture.
In military theory, the defensive side over time loses through attrition and a smaller power thus will theoretically always lose in such a situation.
The Pakistani elite appear to have founded their national goals on founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s belief that they had been given a “moth eaten” country.
Forming a country deserving of the Pakistan dream meant annexing Kashmir, Balochistan and parts of Afghanistan. It is this dream that the Pakistani elite has been pursuing ever since their independence.
Conflict thus became a part of the Pakistani ethos at the moment of its creation and the direct fallout of this reality is the unrelenting terrorist and military assaults inflicted on India over the decades.
Will this dynamic change? The short answer is: unlikely.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s continued provocations on Kashmir and reports of a massive terrorist build up on the borders are hardly encouraging signs.
Therefore, India must prepare for more bloodletting. Sadly, our weakness is not so much at the borders as it is in the chaotic cities of the heartland.
India’s internal security pillars undermined by decades of political interference, systemic callousness and the rise of anti-national subcultures makes for a vulnerability that a determined enemy can exploit at will.
Another event like the 26/11 Mumbai attack, the 2001 Parliament attack or even the Pathankot terror strike will create enormous domestic pressures on the Modi government and compel it to retaliate.
The extent of retaliation and its form will determine the success of the Modi doctrine. For, the total war option would prove disastrous not just because of the nuclear arsenals both nations possess but also because of its economic impact.
A full-fledged war will inevitably drain India’s economic resources and set the development process back by decades, especially now that the economy is poised for a dramatic transformation.
Pakistan would be weakened more than India, perhaps terminally even, but we would fall way behind China in terms of economic power and resilience. This would spell long term disaster for our global ambitions.
This is perhaps one reason why Prime Minister Modi has not overplayed the 29 September attacks and recently asked his political colleagues to refrain from jingoistic chest thumping.
Retaliation after all can take many forms other than war, including covert action to de-stabilise Pakistan internally and economic warfare to undermine its economy. These actions cannot, however, be publicised in the same manner as a “surgical strike” and therefore will not yield similar political dividends.
The Modi doctrine could perhaps take a leaf from the United States’ secret but unrelenting war against the Soviet Union waged over at least three decades. At no point did the militaries of the two superpowers confront each other eyeball to eyeball; yet the Soviet Union ultimately collapsed.