Having achieved the desired success in the hybrid domain, the Govt now needs to revisit the internal issues concerning Kashmir
Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain
In 1965, Pakistan’s military arrogance knew no bounds. Witnessing India’s humiliation in the 1962 border conflict with China gave it a high and self perception about its superiority received a further fillip. It badly miscalculated the quality of India’s leadership leading to Pakistan’s humiliation. In 1971, a recurrence occurred and Pakistan found itself split into two.
The humiliation has never been forgotten despite India’s magnanimity in returning 93,000 prisoners of war without even an assurance of a settlement on J&K. Thereafter, Pakistan has played a strategic game of keeping India engaged in J&K through slow bleeding by many cuts hoping to tire us out and getting the international community to pressure us into leaving J&K or submitting to the will of a long outdated UN Resolution. In its endeavours Pakistan has relied upon a firm belief that its strategy was workable over the long term if it exploited or created opportunities, prevented J&K from slipping out of international focus and yet remained within India's limit of tolerance. The Burhan Wani killing and the emotive upsurge on the streets of Kashmir was an opportunity it could not resist especially since its capability to calibrate the situation had diluted considerably with the low strength of terrorists in the Valley. Uri and Pakistan’s energetic diplomatic campaign were launched primarily to wrestle advantage and give the flagging street turbulence the character of a Palestinian intifada. The one thing Pakistan miscalculated was India’s limit of tolerance and its ability to respond in a hybrid manner, from the tactical to the strategic.
The Indian Government, seeing the dangerous situation evolving due to Pakistan’s overt and covert intervention, employed many things together which went its way. First, it succeeded in keeping internal politics out of the loop, securing the cooperation of the Opposition. Second, it concentrated on the diplomatic front to isolate Pakistan both globally and in the regional realm. While the concurrently ongoing UNGA session may have been considered as an advantage by Pakistan, it is the sheer weight of India’s diplomatic efforts at the UN and elsewhere which prevented Pakistan from wrestling any advantage. The success at the SAARC level, getting two Islamic countries to condemn Pakistan’s involvement in acts of terror and boycotting the SAARC conference at Islamabad, signalled almost complete isolation of Pakistan. Third, the Indian Government chose to experiment with untried issues. Bringing the Indus Waters Treaty into the ambit of the ongoing game, this had never been raised even during heights of far more serious crises. Fourth, the Prime Minister’s personal involvement regarding the direction of the diplomatic and political moves appeared to convey that a military option was far too remote in the minds of Indian leadership. His change of approach at BJP’s Kozhikode convention was the master stroke.. This helped in creating the right setting for the tactical military response the Indian Government was working on all this while.
The DGMO’s aptly worded statement about India ‘reserving it’s right to strike at a time and place of choosing’, provided the appropriate window. An immediate tactical response may not have sent the right message. There was a range of options but the issue at stake was the escalation level India was willing to risk and yet placate public opinion. What many analysts have failed to gauge is the power of public opinion which, since 26/11, has multiplied manifold due to the social media revolution. The decision to keep it tactical, strike on a broad front at multiple places and allow the effect to play out at the strategic level, was the clincher. To keep the security of our future operations intact, the exact nature of the strikes was kept in the zone of grey. Without political ownership of the surgical strikes, the messaging would have just been tactical. By keeping these outside the realm of detail, the strategic dimension did not get diffused.
The focus must return to the Home Minister whose gestures, thoughts, statements and body language have been placatory towards the Kashmiri people. That approach to delink the events at the LoC helped in arresting a potentially volatile situation Pakistan is unlikely to allow the situation to cool down. Baramula may have been a trailer. Yet prudence would demand that having conveyed a strong strategic message of India’s willingness to cross the LoC to secure her interests, we can neutralise Pakistan’s proxy war in the hinterland too. n