By Tanushree Chakravorty*
A recent report in an Indian daily makes public India’s surgical strike in the Pakistan’s territory in 2011 under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The strike also known as ‘operation ginger’ was India’s reaction to a beheading action by Pakistan’s soldier. The report suggests that the recent strike post Uri militant attack is not the first surgical strike that has been conducted by India military.
The disclosure has induced an interesting debate, mainly comparison between previous and the current strike, and Indian government’s plan to make it public.
The report however, clearly states that the previous military operations were ad-hoc reaction rather a tactical move to counter Pakistan’s proxy forces. Any comparison between two must be seen within the logic of strategy and its implementation. It will also help to comprehend the deficit in previous approaches.
A coherent strategy is not a bundle of imagination; it is a cumulative expression of a holistic perspective, well articulated objective, and above all a long term assessment of challenges based on capacity and capability of the nation.
Strategy, as Ajai Sahni mentions, has a clear definition of objectives; a quantified assessment and acquisition of resources required to secure the objectives; and a planned deployment of these resources. The new means of conflict resolution will be judged within the parameters of a strategy.
The government seems to be aware that a military strike is just a part of an umbrella of initiatives it has to take before it can force Pakistan to cut off link with jihadi groups.
A single option alone won’t be enough to deter Pakistan. A combination of all would be the framework of engagement with Pakistan.
Therefore, India has not only exercised its military option against Pakistan, it has also been mulling over idea to review generous Indus water treaty and withdrawing most favoured nation status to Pakistan. It has also opened the diplomatic front to isolate Pakistan globally.
In the past, India has stopped somewhere around some facile diplomatic options, without exploring multiple other avenues.
Current government has shown proclivity to explore all options available. The surgical operation and subsequent announcement has achieved multiple objectives: first, India has broken free of its own rhetoric chain of being a responsible and mature nation, the attack helped to dispel long held sense of despair that had gripped India over its failure to respond to series of Pakistan-backed terrorist attacks. It also signals the abandonment of the earlier policy, whose hallmark was fear of escalation and nuclear conflict.
There is another advantage of the limited military strike against Pakistan across LoC: it has not only inflicted physical damage to the terrorist infrastructure, but also imposed a mark to the invincible macho image of Punjabi forces, which it has fabricated over the years for domestic consumption.
A strike on the Raheel Sharif’s demi-god image, might give setback to the morals of indiscriminate forces in Pakistan, who are consistently backed by regular forces.
It is less likely to stop future proxy wars by Pakistan completely, but it certainly has raised the cost of proxy adventurism.
Secondly, India understood that it cannot accomplish much by diplomatic means alone, and unless a considerable amount of cost is imposed on the Pakistan army, it will be business as usual.
The strategy to brief top envoys of 25 countries including the US, China, Russia, the UK and France aimed at conveying the context of the strike puts the ball in international community’s court for de-escalation of the tension.
India immediately reaped the benefits, the US NSA Susan Rice in her early hour call to Indian NSA Ajit Doval, reiterated the point that Pakistan must take effective action to combat and delegitimise United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates.
It was the first time the US named the organisation involved in anti India activities. Russia, which was seen drifting away towards Pakistan, after their joint military exercise last week, asked Pakistan to act against terrorist groups active in their country. Similar responses were received from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and South Korea.
The most crucial diplomatic gain was to unite regional players to voice against terrorism in their backyard. Regional South Asia players were asked to co-operate in India’s battle against terrorism. A positive outcome of it is the withdrawal of four nations- Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan from what was to the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Pakistan.
The long term success of a strategy within a particular framework of engagement with Pakistan is not unrealistic but depends on an incalculable number of variables- a lot on both domestic and external factors.
In a multilateral world with overlapping political and economic interests, it would not be easy to convince key players to pressurise Pakistan for long. One of the principle challenges would be to convince China and the US in friendly and concessionary manner. It would depend a lot on the current and future government to persist with the initiative. Any disconnect between objectives, tactics, and ground conditions will be detrimental to the process.
*Tanushree Chakravorty is an observer and analyst on Indian domestic and neighbourhood policy. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent on:[email protected]